Open space and recreation water use in Melbourne is estimated to be up to 50,000 ML of potable water per year – the equivalent of around 17,000 Olympic sized pools of water. The open spaces that use this water include parks, gardens, public landscapes and turf (race tracks, ovals and golf courses), and are part of the amenity horticulture industry. Despite its significant water usage, challenges in using recycled water have limited the take up of water recycling technologies by the amenity horticulture industry.
Communications and consulting company Arris, which specialises in amenity and production agriculture and environmental risk management, set out to assess the barriers to adoption of recycled water use in the industry and determine its specific needs regarding water reuse and recycled water irrigation schemes.
Once the barriers were determined, Arris aimed to improve the development and adoption of recycled water use by creating a user handbook, training programs and workshops to overcome these barriers.
Using grants from the Smart Water Fund and Horticulture Australia Limited, Arris surveyed recreation and open space managers to identify the information that should be covered in the handbook.
It also used information gained from a five-year project with Horticulture Australia to help amenity and production horticulture managers use recycled water to guarantee water supply. Both these activities helped shape some of the questions and concerns that the industry was dealing with in the use of recycled water.
“Some of the most significant concerns identified by the industry were: occupational health and safety; public health and safety; management of salinity and sodicity; nutrient balances and monitoring; amenity horticultural (landscapes, gardens and turf) performance; and environmental performance,” says Dr Daryl Stevens, principal scientist at Arris.
A handbook addressing these concerns was drafted and reviewed by experts in the horticulture industry, and road tested at a one-day Western Water workshop that trained managers on the practical aspects of using recycled water to irrigate public spaces.
The finalised handbook was launched with a series of workshops tailored for different stakeholder groups including local councils and landscape gardeners.
The Arris handbook equips designers and managers of amenity horticulture recycled water schemes with information to implement recycled water projects and provides advice for managing common problems.
While compiling the handbook, Arris found there was a lot of information about water recycling caught up in ‘grey literature’.
“Grey literature is information that has not been officially published or listed in academic databases. It is people’s own useful experience that just sits on a shelf in their office or on a website where it is difficult to find. The handbook captures and shares this valuable information,” Dr Stevens says.
Dr Stevens said another challenge was to produce a user-friendly handbook that still contained enough detailed information for users to make management decisions about designing and managing a recycled water system that someone else would then operate day-to-day. Arris decided to aim the handbook at designers and managers of recycled water schemes rather than the day-to-day users of the systems.
“The information in the handbook will make it easier to understand what is required to develop and manage a reuse scheme, helping industry stakeholders to develop or manage a low maintenance sustainable recycled water system,” Dr Stevens says.