Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is working closely with the NSW Government in an effort to implement recycled water for a number of uses and reduce pressure on the town's drinking water supply.
The latest information in council's Water Security Update report was noted by councillors at the December meeting, after residents urged council to think broadly about how water can be sourced, given the dire outlook for the region's water use.
Council's general manager Craig Swift-McNair said council may have to call an extraordinary meeting at the end of January to move to level four restrictions.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council acting group manager water and sewer Terry Randall said it's expected residents at Thrumster will use recycled water for outdoor use and laundry purposes by mid 2021.
Mr Randall explained recycled water is highly treated sewerage, that is free from bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
The new residences at Thrumster were built with a dual plumbing system. However Mr Randall said a pipeline, required to transfer the recycled water from the plant to the Thrumster area, is still yet to be built.
New residences at Lake Cathie and Bonny Hills have also been built with a dual plumbing system. It's hoped recycled water will be available to residents in mid 2020.
Once available recycled water can be used for laundry, watering gardens, washing and feeding pets, car washing and toilet flushing.
At council's December meeting resident Stephen Healy said the current Water Security Update downplays the important sources of greywater, storm water and recycled water in protecting the region's water supply.
At Mr Healy's Wauchope property he saves water from having a bucket in his shower to use on his garden and reuses the greywater from his washing machine. He also has a rainwater tank.
Mr Healy said it's a minor and easy step to facilitate greywater plumbing to new residences, the same for rainwater tanks.
He said he has serious concerns for future water security, unless these ideas were incorporated.
Resident Jake Wadsworth spoke in support of council's Water Security Update and said it was good to see climate change has been considered in future water planning for the region.
As outlined in council's meeting business papers, two key projects have been identified to improve long-term water security.
These include the construction of a bulk water filtration plant at Cowarra Dam and raising of the dam's walls in order to increase storage capacity.
Mr Wadsworth acknowledged that while increasing the dam's walls will increase storage capacity, it still needs to be filled, which will not occur from using the catchment alone.
"The critical point is still being able to pump from the river," he said.
He said this is where the bulk water filtration plant at Cowarra Dam will become vital.
The initiative will allow water to be harvested from the river after heavy rain.
"I note that this project is necessary because climate change is driving a shift toward heavier rain events," Mr Wadsworth said.
Mr Wadsworth urged councillors to start treating water as a precious resource and to introduce incentives so people reduce their consumption.
Director Sharp said council can establish a pricing regime for water charges and could consider a pricing regime similar to what Mr Wadsworth alluded to.
Cr Alley said it's important the community is aware of the significant cost of changes to address water security.
He said over the next 20 to 30 years there will be hundreds of millions of dollars invested into the new initiatives.
At the moment recycled water use has only been approved at some businesses, parks and sporting fields for uses including irrigation, toilet flushing and car washing.
Recycled water has also been used to fight the Lindfield Park fire.
Mr Randall said in the future, due to growing demand and production cost of recycled water, council will have to prioritise where it's utilized and for what purpose.
For more information about council's recycled water scheme, please visit https://www.pmhc.nsw.gov.au/Services/Water/Water-management/Recycled-water-system
What are the benefits of reclaimed water?
- Reduced future consumption of our drinking water supplies
- Parks, gardens, and other open spaces are kept green and in good playing condition, even during future drought conditions
- Environmental benefits include: less treated effluent discharged into streams, rivers and ocean, and less water being pumped from the Hastings River for the town drinking water supply.
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