North East Water has developed reclaimed water reuse schemes across the region in line with the requirements of the State Environmental Protection Policy (SEPP) Waters of Victoria.
North East Water has developed reclaimed water reuse schemes across the region in line with the requirements of the State Environmental Protection Policy (SEPP) Waters of Victoria. We currently supply over 2830 ML of reclaimed water to 22 different schemes that vary from lawn irrigation at the Victory Primary School, Wodonga to large scale irrigated cropping in Benalla and Yarrawonga. These reuse schemes not only supply valuable reclaimed water for agriculture, they also benefit the community by providing reclaimed water to Schools, Parks and Golf Courses that would not normally have access to this resource.
North East Water has developed Environmental Improvement Plans (EIP) for each of our reuse schemes that have been submitted to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for approval. The overall objective of the EIP is to maximise the use of reclaimed water on the land and minimise the risks associated with its use. To meet this objective, the EIP contains the following information:
In addition to the EIP, for each site we have developed a Site Management Plan and a Sale of Reclaimed Water Agreement with any third party lessee.
100% reuse of reclaimed water is currently achieved at the following towns:
The following towns have up to 50% reclaimed water reuse:
Answers to 15 frequently asked questions on reuse and reclaimed water irrigation.
Reclaimed water, used in place of fresh water where appropriate, is a valuable resource. Not only can its use assist in the preservation of fresh water supplies, it reduces the need to use commercial fertilisers on crops and pastures. Treated effluent contains water, plant nutrients and organic matter, which together improve soil fertility and encourage plant growth.
The use of reclaimed water can have economic benefits, depending on connection fees and charge per volume. This also relies on limiting the use of the water to prevent costly soil structure problems caused by too many nutrients.
The use of reclaimed water can benefit the environment and community as long as the water is managed properly and the resources of the catchment are considered as part of a total network.
Yes and no. The capacity of plants to take up nutrients and other dissolved substances is limited, so irrigation with reclaimed water may need to be restricted to prevent a build-up of nutrients in the soil or excessive loss to groundwater. Ensuring that the water-loading matches the plant requirements can control this. As plant requirements change through the course of their growth, the application of nutrients also needs to change. In using reclaimed water, it is possible to dilute the water during those periods when there is a demand for water but not for additional nutrients.
Reclaimed water can be applied using flood, sprinkler and drip irrigation methods, and can be used on turf, pasture, trees and a range of horticulture and fodder crops. The application rates are the same as for fresh water, and on the same time frame as the irrigation season.
This depends on the climate of your area. The amount of irrigation is governed by rainfall and evaporation, which together determine the water supply and demand of a pasture or crop. In most of Victoria, evaporation generally exceeds rainfall during the warmer months. At these times soil moisture levels fall and plant growth declines. In the cooler months there is usually enough rainfall to meet the water requirements of growing plants. Reclaimed water produced in the cooler months must be held in storage until the next irrigation season.
In warmer climates it is possible to irrigate all the year round. Irrigation quantities still vary with the seasons and some storage is still required.
Irrigation with reclaimed water can raise the salt levels around the roots of irrigated plants. Consequently, some leaching is necessary if irrigation is to be sustained. Rainfall usually flushes the salt away causing the leached salt to enter the groundwater. The keys to ensuring no problems occur are good drainage and no salt build-up prior to commencing irrigation. In addition, it is necessary to carry out a site assessment to determine the groundwater level and quality before irrigation begins.
With careful management, suitable crops and an appropriate irrigation site it is possible for a reclaimed water irrigation system to be sustainable in the long-term. The following factors are relevant to ensuring sustainable irrigation practices are undertaken:
Excessive irrigation with low quality water involves a risk of pollution of the groundwater. The Draft State Environment Protection Policy (Groundwaters of Victoria) proposes that any discharge of waste to land must give consideration to the impact of rising water tables on the sustainability of irrigation. These factors need to be determined prior to the installation of any wastewater irrigation scheme.
The EPA publication "Guidelines for Wastewater Irrigation" defines the arrangements required for containment on-site. Run-off collection systems are sometimes required to collect run-off and recycle it back onto the irrigation area. This prevents any run-off flowing onto neighbouring properties or to waterways.
A site management plan is usually part of an agreement between the operator and the Corporation for the sale of reclaimed water. Run-off control forms a part of this agreement.
Odour problems are usually the result of either poorly managed treatment and collection systems or overload of these systems. Properly managed irrigation systems of reclaimed water should not produce any odour at all.
Trace elements are essential for life. It is therefore not surprising that domestic wastewater usually contains small quantities, but these should not pose a threat to the soil quality. The balance of elements and nutrients does need to be monitored as normally occurs in irrigated agriculture.
Long-term application of nutrient-rich water can result in excessive accumulation, especially of phosphorus, in the soil. This can be dealt with in several practical ways: ensuring the input of nutrients always matches the output; ensuring the reclaimed water is diluted with fresh water during low-growth periods; and ensuring plant matter is removed.
One of the prime objectives of using reclaimed water for irrigation is to divert the discharge from the rivers and streams onto the land. This diversion assists in reducing the levels of nutrients in these streams that can otherwise lead to the growth of blue-green algae.
Care needs to be taken with a diversion to ensure that the amount of water diverted does not leave the receiving environment without an adequate flow. A gradual change to any ecosystem is preferable in order to monitor these changes.
Reclaimed water from sewage treatment facilities is required to meet prescribed microbiological health standards. The treatment of reclaimed water is a very effective method of safeguarding public health.
Factors influencing the survival of pathogenic micro-organisms in soils include moisture, temperature, pH, nutrients, organic matter and the presence of some organisms and toxins. Micro-organisms remaining on exposed surfaces are destroyed by sunlight and desiccation. For this reason there is a withholding period after irrigation before access is allowed to public recreation areas. There are also buffer distances for residential areas from reclaimed water irrigation.
Appropriate wastewater treatment and, sometimes, restrictions on produce (e.g. Salad vegetables) are required to prevent the spread of organisms capable of causing disease.
No. The regulations and safety measures applied in Australia have been effective on preventing disease outbreaks caused by reclaimed water use. The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is about to release new guidelines for the use of reclaimed water that will cover health-related standards.