Project Round
Project Number
Research Organisation

Laying the Foundation for Confident Barrier Free Water Conservation and Reuse

Project Overview

Australia is one of the driest inhabioted continents on earth. The national water consumtion rates are now generally considered to be unstustainable, with about a quarter of Australia’s surface water management areas either approaching or exceeding sustainable extraction limits.

With increasing pressures on water resources, the concept of beneficial use of treated wastewater has rapidly become an imperative for water agencies around the world. Water reclamation, recycling and reuse are now recognised as key components of water and wastewater management. However there some barriers to reuse; including public confidence, public health and environmental issues, the way potential projects are evaluated, perceived reliability of treatment technologies, storage costs, monitoring methods and lack of awareness of what has been done elsewhere.

The purpose of this project was to produce a summary of these barriers and ways to action them and accelerate uptake of reuse projects.

During this project a comprehensive literature review was conducted and a summary of existing international and Australian water reuse research provided. The literature review focuses mainly on wastewater reuse because this type of reuse has been better researched and often elicits greater public concerns. Further topics included:

  • examples of succesfull and unsuccessful reuse projects;
  • research on public perceptions of reuse;
  • acceptance of reuse in Australia;
  • the ‘Yuck Factor”;
  • percption of risk associated with using recycled water;
  • specific uses;
  • sources of water to be recycled;
  • environmental issues;
  • costs; and
  • strategies for implementing new projects.

Further to the literarture review, project investigators developed a comprehensive framework for pricing potable first use water, reuse water and sewage. As part of a full cost approach, externatilities or unintended damage to other users or the environment are incorporated in the framework. The approach uses a framework to trace the cycle of extraction, storage, regulation, distribution and use, with return of water or wastewater to the environment as a means of identifying the potential set of externalities.

The framework is designed to facilitate rational investment in potable water, reuse water and sewage that takes the full costs of production and to the environment into account. This project report has also suggested how externality costs could be incorporated in these charges.

Regardless of the approaches adopted by the water agencies, it seems that understanding community values and concerns, and establishing a genuine partenership with the community are most essential in the formulation of any reuse policy. Community empowerment is the key to early public involvement process.


Supporting documents