Sep 25, 2015 - News    3 Comments

Water recycling collaboration and innovation for Leighton Beach

splashThis week Council approved a feasibility and design study for a grey water treatment and re-use system will enable us to water the existing Leighton Beach grass and vegetation using treated greywater from adjacent private developments.

This innovative collaboration, if successful, will enable the City of Fremantle to save 20,000kL of water and $37,000 a year for the reticulation of this public reserve.

This opportunity at Leighton initially came up because we were building new kiosk and shower facilities adjacent to the newly grassed reserve. While it turns out that a capture and distribute greywater system from the Leighton shower facilities may not offer much benefit other than as a demonstration project; the opportunity that exists with large private developers adjacent to the reserve offers far greater value.

If we can find a way to reuse water from the development sites, this will save Council $37,000 and 20,000kL of water a year. It will also be a unique and innovation – possibly a first in Perth.

Experts from Josh Byrne and Associates state “What is unique is the collaboration between two separate parties on two separate land titles/lots. This would set a precedent that could unlock these kinds of opportunities in other locations.”

Development sites such as the Energy Museum and Quarry Street – both adjacent to Fremantle Park; the Knutsford Street area – next door to the Golf course and Booyeembarra Park; the Lefroy Road development area – adjacent to the South Fremantle High School are prime examples of where this could also be implemented in Fremantle.

If successful, this collaborative community-scale greywater project will reinforce Fremantle’s leadership in innovation, excellence and sustainability. It may even be adopted more widely throughout Perth, thereby having a significant contribution towards reducing our dependence on increasingly expensive and scarce water resources. Water resilience is a significant concern throughout Perth and in Fremantle.

Using less water, or obtaining water from alternative sources must be a priority for all councils, as we become a drier, hotter climate.

This is made clear in the WA State Water Plan (2007), which states key actions include:

  • Use and recycle water wisely
  • Plan and manage water resources sustainably
  • Invest in science, innovation and education

This is echoed in the City of Freamantle’s Water Conservation Strategy, which states:

“A key imperative of the City is to… implement staged water management actions for all City of Fremantle properties and recreation areas, with clear targets for reduced water usage. Water availability in Perth has been labelled as the most challenging of future water supply and demand scenarios (Thomas 2008, p. 14). Even in “low growth” population projections, the Perth area is expected to be in a water shortage by 2020 with existing groundwater, surface water, and desalinisation sources (Department of Water 2010, p. 4). The new goal is to reduce the City scheme & ground water consumption by a further 10% over the next 10 years.”

It includes the following actions:

  • Develop policies and guidelines to help reduce scheme water in all City of Fremantle owned and managed properties
  • Investigate alternative water supply options
  • Develop policies and guidelines on greywater use and encourage greywater use for irrigation

Therefore it is good sense to undertake this feasibility study baffles.

The One Planet strategy states: “The City of Fremantle is conscious of Western Australia’s water scarcity and is committed to innovative strategies to improve water use efficiency“.

This feasibility study into a collaborative greywater reuse project is well worth perusing. It is being undertaken by Josh Byrne and Associates; a credible team of professionals renowned for their work in sustainable innovation, including the water initiatives at Landcorp site in WGV. They have previously done studies into greywater reuse at Bold Park and have a wealth of practical experience, expertise and professional networks that will give this project great advantage. They know about the health, technological and botanical implications of these matters and can advise us appropriately.

This project has the potential to save ratepayers over $37,000 and 20,000kL of our precious water resources each year at the Leighton Beach site alone. But more significantly, this innovation could be replicated in other sites having a multiplier effect and proving to be excellent value and investment from council in water resilience and financial efficiency.

I am tremendously excited about the potential this project and proud of the council for undertaking such an initiative.

3 Comments

  • The idea to supplement public open space watering with localised greywater is another example of blatant cost shifting by Local Council onto its residents in the pursuit of an ideology. Grey water irrigation on this scale is not as easy as installing a bucket in the bottom of the shower – it involves separation of wastewater (that means separate plumbing), treatment and presumably storage (given that is being used for irrigation and presumably not during the winter months where there is a sprinkler ban for all other water types!). So who is going to pay for this infrastructure – the developer and ultimately the strata company and thus the residents? This not only has direct costs but also indirect costs through insurances etc.….and what about the coastline – will the limestone filtration do it before it hits the coastline. If we are talking about of node of development, what about the impact on the Water Corporation gravity fed sewers, will they have sufficient gradient to ensure that appropriate flow occur? (What we are talking about here is the sunk investment of the community, surely this is part of the sustainability assessment). Who pays for the electricity for pumping of the water to where it is needed? Then who foots the bill of the ongoing maintenance of the greywater facility – that’s right the residents do. Then there is backflow prevention and cross connection inspections – who pays for those? Do you have any idea of the number of developments in the area that have installed the second pipe in the pursuit of a sustainable water solution but have never turned them on (typically the transition to alternative water supplies in new developments are just that a transition and don’t make economic sense until the development is fully occupied). So the key question is in the feasibility assessment is the feasibility from who’s perspective, Rachel’s blog seems to focus on the outcome for the Council.
    If the goal is to save 10% there are other ways to achieve this – incentivising households and business to save water –working with Water Corporation to leverage their programs and expertise – they have Waterwise Business programs, experts to work through water conservation audits, Waterwise Plumbers and Waterwise Schools to ensure that behaviour change and conservation is part of the upcoming generations. Surely this is better than giving more money to a sustainability expert who the ratepayer has already given $40,000 for the upkeep of his house as a showcase in sustainability. So we are paying for his house and kicking into the viability of his business?
    To quote someone who actually relates to people and understands their needs – ‘what the?’

    • Oh and I forgot who is going to get the operating license for the scheme?

    • Hello Alison,

      I checked with the consultants, and these matters will be addressed in the scope of works for the feasibility study.

      A large part of the point of doing a feasibilty study is to determine just how much more cost effective using grey water will be and whether the payback period, based on conservative assumptions about all the costs, capital and ongoing, will meet council requirements.

      The separation of the grey water happens at source and the works required will be assessed. The developer has been open to this and doesn’t anticipate onerous changes or costs. But it needs to be part of the model and it will be.

      The impact on Water Corp is managed by a set of technical rules that will be addressed. Water Corp has been very positive about innovation in this space in recent times as seen at WGV.

      As to there being other water saving opportunities out there, The City of Fremantle is also addressing those through our Water Conservation Strategy and the One Planet initiative.

      What is being tested here is a very different thing – a precedent to identify, model, and hopefully implement a commercially viable means if enabling alternative water sources for irrigation needs.

      It’s time to start implementing solutions and rather than ruling out options before we’ve had a thorough look at what is possible.

      I also sought exert advice to address some of your specific concerns from Dr Martin Anda, Academic Chair of Environmental Engineering at the School of Engineering and Information Technology, Murdoch University, who provided the following responses:

      “The idea to supplement public open space watering with localised greywater is another example of blatant cost shifting by Local Council onto its residents in the pursuit of an ideology.”

      How can this be cost shifting? The aim is to reduce costs. There is a risk of an over-abstracted groundwater aquifer also leading to saltwater intrusion at POS irrigated locations such as Leighton Beach. This may mean in the future increased used of expensive scheme drinking water for irrigation – not an ideal fit-for-purpose application, not an economic one. The use of grey water may avoid the need to revert to scheme water in the future.

      “Grey water irrigation on this scale is not as easy as installing a bucket in the bottom of the shower – it involves separation of wastewater (that means separate plumbing), treatment…”

      People don’t want to have to cart buckets of water outside everyday. Separation of greywater and backwater plumbing at the time of construction is not a large additional expenditure and it is an investment into the future even if the grey water treatment and reuse system is not installed now. Over time the technology will get better and cheaper so even if installed later we will still be ahead. Master Plumbers Assn has in the past endorsed this approach and estimated that it would cost an additional $800 per home to arrange the separate plumbing.

      ” and presumably storage…”

      DoH regulations state that grey water cannot be stored for longer than 24 hours therefore there will not large expense on large storage tanks. Moreover, storage will not be needed because grey water is generated regularly and frequently.

      ” (given that is being used for irrigation and presumably not during the winter months where there is a sprinkler ban for all other water types!). “

      There are no time or frequency of use restrictions on the use of greywater for irrigation – only scheme water and bore water – therefore councils and homeowners are the winners year round once they install this infrastructure. While the gardens of the unwilling around them brown off during summer the grey water recyclers can continue to maintain their fecundity.

      “So who is going to pay for this infrastructure – the developer and ultimately the strata company and thus the residents? This not only has direct costs but also indirect costs through insurances etc””

      As per my comment above the MPA conducted their analysis several years ago and found that costs are not excessive.

      “.….and what about the coastline – will the limestone filtration do it before it hits the coastline. ”

      The nutrient content of grey water is far less than combined wastewater, raw sewage. Moreover, when applied in irrigation at the rates specified by DoH and AS1547 (10mm/day max) the vegetation and soil profile has the assimilative capacity to process the nutrients. Moreover again this will reduce the need to chemical fertilisers to be applied to the turf.

      “If we are talking about of node of development, what about the impact on the Water Corporation gravity fed sewers, will they have sufficient gradient to ensure that appropriate flow occur? (What we are talking about here is the sunk investment of the community, surely this is part of the sustainability assessment). “

      It is unlikely that there will be impact on sewer flows by removal of some grey water. Toilet and kitchen flows will provide sufficient flushing.

      “Who pays for the electricity for pumping of the water to where it is needed?”

      The average energy use for sewage treatment by Water Corporation across Perth is 0.64kWr/kL. It will be more or less at different places around Perth depending on where you are in relation to the wastewater treatment plant and the stage outfall to the ocean which is where it all gets dumped. From Leighton Beach the sewage and grey water is pumped all the way down south to the Woodman Point wastewater treatment plant. From there it is pumped all the way south down to Point Peron where it is pumped kilometres out to sea. So therefore the energy cost for this location will be plenty more than 0.64. Therefore, localised grey water reuse at places far from the treatment plants will have slower energy use especially if lower energy simple grey water diversion systems are used for grey water reuse on irrigation. Moreover, this is an ideal facility for installation of a solar PV system for electricity generation.

      ” Then who foots the bill of the ongoing maintenance of the greywater facility – that’s right the residents do. Then there is backflow prevention and cross connection inspections – who pays for those?”

      For the leighton grey water system I expect the annual maintenance cost will be the typical $600pa that anyone pays to a contractor for maintenance of an onsite ATU.”

      “Do you have any idea of the number of developments in the area that have installed the second pipe in the pursuit of a sustainable water solution but have never turned them on (typically the transition to alternative water supplies in new developments are just that a transition and don’t make economic sense until the development is fully occupied). So the key question is in the feasibility assessment is the feasibility from who’s perspective, Rachel’s blog seems to focus on the outcome for the Council.”

      Here I guess she means a “third pipe” for alternate water (also know as “dual reticulation” for potable and non-potable supply), not a “second pipe”. As far as I am aware there are no developments in the area that have installed a third pipe system that has not been used? The closest I am aware of is at the Midland Rail Workshops redevelopment site and that was delayed due to the GFC hitting and lot sales stopped therefore no further investment in anything at all was possible.

      “If the goal is to save 10% there are other ways to achieve this – incentivising households and business to save water –working with Water Corporation to leverage their programs and expertise – they have Waterwise Business programs, experts to work through water conservation audits, Waterwise Plumbers and Waterwise Schools to ensure that behaviour change and conservation is part of the upcoming generations. “

      The State Water Plan includes some good aspirational targets. Perth water use is still amongst the highest in Australia and the world so clearly governments, businesses and households still need to do more. Earlier the State government had produced the State Water Recycling Plan. You won’t find this now. There were some specific targets to be achieved by set dates. Once Water Corp and government realised that they were not willing to make the effort and investment to achieve these and went ahead with high energy seawater desalination plants the recycling plans were quietly removed from policy, websites and abandoned. So can we rely on big corporations, big utilities, big government to lead all the way with sustainability? Fortunately we live in a democracy where Local Government can still play a strong role and have enough independence to make some decisions for itself with strong local community involvement. Where higher levels of government fail to lead Local Government can still step up where the will of the community is behind it and take steps towards innovation itself.

      “Surely this is better than giving more money to a sustainability expert who the ratepayer has already given $40,000 for the upkeep of his house as a showcase in sustainability. So we are paying for his house and kicking into the viability of his business? To quote someone who actually relates to people and understands their needs – ‘what the?’”

      Thousands of people have benefited from the contributions made at Josh’s House as a sustainable demonstration home. Every time there is an open day there are queues of people wanting to see and learn. Josh has produced a vast array of free fact sheet and video downloads on his website that thousands more people have been able to take advantage of. Therefore this is certainly not a bad investment. It enables many people in the community to raise their awareness of what they can do in their own homes and businesses.

      The investment into Josh’s House has also enable the installation of marvelous monitoring online equipment that enables great research to be undertaken on contemporary water and energy consumption patterns as well as the innovative systems that have been installed there. There is a lot of criticism of grey water and rainwater systems but usually with an absence of evidence. The early results at Josh’s House are showing his model called “mains water neutral” is a very positive development for regular homes and gardens. There will be a paper presented at a conference soon on this and he may have already published the earlier results in another paper.