Fire fighting training that simulates real life situations is critical to the safety of the public and success of firefighting and emergency services. This training requires the use of large quantities of water which is normally discharged directly to the stormwater system.
In addition, the water used for firefighting training is sourced from hydrants, which are not metered making it difficult to measure the exact quantity used. Following an extensive audit of its operations and associated water use, the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) recognised it had an opportunity to undertake a program to benchmark, track and reduce their water use during training activities.
To tackle this challenge the MFB, in partnership with an engineering consultancy, has developed an initiative to gain greater understanding and awareness of its actual water use and to reduce its water use through the development of innovative infrastructure.
The project will include the construction and trial of an improved water recycling pod system. The pod will store up to 7,000 litres of water that will be connected to a closed loop training pump allowing it to be captured and recirculated.
Water testing will also be conducted to determine how long the water can be stored and recirculated at a high quality within the pod before it needs to be replaced. Water treatment options will be investigated to enable the replaced water to be reused for other purposes within the MFB facilities or at other community facilities.
The pod is transportable by truck and can be used at different training locations.
Meters will be installed initially at four training sites to measure water use; Thornbury, Oakleigh, Thomastown and Sunshine. This will enable a greater understanding of the amount of water used in training.
To assist with implementation, training manuals will be produced for staff to help integrate the pods into the training program.
This is the first time a project of this scale has been trialled in Australia.
Training manuals will be produced for staff to help integrate the pods into the training program.
The project is innovative because it utilises water recycling and water treatment on a significant scale to provide major savings in the water used in firefighting training.
MFB will use water meters and monitoring systems to collect data over one year to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of this pod system and quantify the amount of water it uses for training.
They will also explore the limits of reusing the water and what water quality treatments will be needed before it can be released for a variety of community purposes.
Results from this project will be integrated into the MFB’s broader Environmental Management System currently in development with the view to expanding the implementation of the pod systems if this trial proves to be successful.
The immediate benefits of the project will be two fold. Firstly, the pod has the potential to save up to 60 mega litres of water a year. Water from within the pod will be assessed for its suitability for secondary reuse purposes once it is required to be replaced – such purposes will include reuse within the fire service facility and community facilities such as parklands, sports fields or toilet flushing of public amenities.
Secondly, the benchmarking of the amount of water used in firefighting training and ongoing recording and management of this supply will assist the MFB to greater understand the supply and demand of unmetered water used in fire skills training.
This project also integrates well with other MFB projects currently being planned, including the installation of rainwater tanks at most sites, or use of stormwater runoff collection to use for filling the pods.
The MFB plans to share this knowledge of the pod for training and understanding unmetered water use with other firefighting organisations and water businesses in Australia, in order to generate further on the ground deployments of this innovative system.