Seminar examines future options for water management in SEQ

Seminar Examines Future Options For Water Management In SEQ

Attendees gained a comprehensive insight into the best way to manage the future of South East Queensland’s water supply at the Water Wisdom: The Urban Water Cycle conference in September.

The seminar, a collaboration between Healthy Land and Water, University of the Sunshine Coast and the Sunshine Coast Environment Council and sponsored by go2zone, was held on September 27.

Experts in water treatment and supply presented a wealth of clearly understandable information and led informed discussions on the options available to provide new sources of water that will be necessary to cater for the region’s increasing population.

Some of the key discussion topics focused on finding new water sources, with Water Technology Director Tony McAlister suggesting traditional water sources like storage dams could no longer be relied upon as they were climate dependent and most ideal dam sites had already been exploited. Mr McAlister said more viable options to consider were harvesting groundwater and stormwater.

The topic of recycled water was examined in detail, with pH Water Consultants Peter Griffiths explaining the technologies used to treat wastewater to protect environmental and human health. Griffith University Associate Professor Helen Stratton explained the processes used to treat our drinking water and emphasised the care that is taken to ensure treated water meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and is safe to drink. Sunshine Coast Environment Council Project Officer Jenifer Simpson used her presentation to demonstrate how water becomes progressively cleaner and more useful for recycling opportunities as it passes through wastewater and advanced treatment plants.

The relatively new technology of membrane filtration was explained by GHD Water Market Leader Warren Traves. He said that reverse osmosis membranes were used for both desalination of seawater and for potable recycling. Due to the high salt content of seawater, four times more energy is required to desalinate than to recycle. The difference in cost is even starker and likely to increase as energy prices rise.

IBL Solutions Principal Ian Law said that the use of recycled water for non-potable purposes had been found to be unsustainable and not cost-effective. He gave examples of the potable recycling that is already occurring in South East Queensland despite little public awareness of the practice. The use of positive terminology about water recycling was also crucial, Mr Law said, in winning public support and acceptance amongst the community.

During discussions held at the seminar, attendees expressed concern about the level of understanding around current water management planning processes. It was suggested greater efforts were needed to improve the public’s understanding of water supply management so the entire community could provide input on the way to move forward.

Towards the end of the event, attendees participated in a hypothetical investment scenario where they were given $10m worth of fake money and asked which water management projects they would invest in.

The results showed recycled water projects were the most popular option by a wide margin, followed by stormwater harvesting, the creation of dams and the construction of desalination plants. A wide range of other options rated mentions including increasing dam heights, rainwater tanks, catchment management, education, water use efficiency and water sensitive urban design.

Healthy Land and Water CEO Julie McLellan said the Water Wisdom seminar was a success and the debate would help guide the decision-making process as South East Queensland confronts its options for water management.

“The path we take on managing our water supply into the future is one of the most important decisions we have to make as a community,” she said.

“It was a pleasure having so many experts come together for the conference and sharing their ideas and making the path to progress clearer for our community and for the environment.”


About Healthy Land and Water

Healthy Land and Water is an independent organisation offering expertise in environmental research, monitoring and evaluation, and in the delivery of on-ground programs and projects in South East Queensland that deliver effective solutions to local pressures.

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