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WESTERN AUSTRALIA: MANAGING WATER


billion litres of climate independent water each year into Perth’s scheme supply.


More recently, after a successful three-year trial that had to comply with 254 health guidelines, Western Australia’s first state-of-the art groundwater replenishment scheme is ready to move forward, heralding a new era in the management of Perth’s drinking water supply. The vision for this Scheme started over ten years ago, when scientists from the Water Corporation visited the groundwater replenishment plant at Orange Country, California, United States.


This project involves treating wastewater to drinking water standards, and then recharging it into the deep Gnangara groundwater aquifers north of Perth. To date, 3.8 billion litres of water has been recharged and the equivalent taken out for public water supply. This advanced treatment process removes chemicals and microorganisms such as bacteria, nutrients, detergents, oils, pesticides and heavy metals and means the water is actually pure before it is recharged into aquifers at a depth of between 120-220 metres. There it mixes with groundwater, undergoing natural filtration for up to three decades before extraction, by which time it is the same as any other groundwater in the aquifer and subject to further treatment, ready to supply our drinking water system.


Investing in the Gnangara system


In July 2014 the expansion of the groundwater replenishment scheme’s capacity and awarding of a contract for the construction of the first full- scale groundwater replenishment plant was announced.


The Advanced Water Recycling Plant (AWRP), led by the water service utility Water Corporation, will be built next to the trial plant, with double the treatment capacity of what was originally envisaged for stage one. When finished in 2016, this first stage plant will be able to deliver 14Gl per year of water into the grid, and


this water source has the potential to supply up to 20 per cent of Perth’s future drinking water needs by 2060. Just as O’Connor balanced water and climate science with engineering, our investment in the investigation, monitoring and modelling of the Gnangara system has sustained the city during a 40 year drying climate trend, but has given the confidence to proceed with this state-of-the art groundwater replenishment scheme in full knowledge of the nature of this


water source, and how to manage any risks to the existing water supplied from this source.


It has also provided science-based information critical to winning over public acceptance of this new source – such as dispelling myths that this water is going straight from the ‘toilet to tap”. Innovation and vision in water engineering and management based on an understanding of hydrology have helped shape Western Australia’s growth.


Continued improvements in the use of water and innovative new sources like managed aquifer recharge enable adaption to the drying climate. The same climate change that has reduced flows into dams has also seriously reduced the amount of aquifer recharge in the groundwater systems.


This new solution is starting to put back into the ground what is being taking out, water that until now, was treated and piped out into the ocean.


The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 169


Inside the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant


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