A case study research into urban water reuse

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Climate change could lead to longer and more frequent droughts for Australia. The option of water reuse, being independent of rainfall variations, provides a major source of water supply security for our growing cities. A 'soft path' for water management is widely acknowledged to be the sustainable future of water management. Decentralised wastewater reuse schemes form an important supply option in this 'soft path' approach. Discussion on water reuse and its role in sustainable water resource management in Australia has been on the agenda for the last three decades. Despite its long presence on the agendas of policy makers and scientific community, promulgation of water reuse in Australia has been a rather slow process. The research efforts to date have focussed on the technological aspects of water reuse, leaving behind a gap in the area of policy and implementation aspects. This knowledge gap is even more severe when considering decentralised urban water reuse. Australian literature on decentralised reuse schemes owned and operated by entities other than the major water utilities is virtually non-existent. This research assists in bridging the knowledge gap identified above, by investigating the decentralised water reuse technique of 'water mining' in detail. The concept of water mining is defined and range of technologies available for water mining are described, along with discussion on planning and risk management aspects of such schemes. A comprehensive literature review is also provided on urban water reuse, examining centralised and decentralised water reuse in Australia. As opposed to traditional engineering line of enquiry, this research is of interdisciplinary nature, looking at socio-economic, environmental management, pricing policy, as well as technical aspects of a decentralised water reuse project. Using Beverley Park Water Reclamation Project (Sydney's first water mining scheme) as a case study, this research analyses design, planning, and implementation phases of this project. Operational risks to human as well as environmental health are also reviewed in context of the case study site. A regional economic Input Output (IO) Model for the St George- Sutherland Statistical Region is developed to analyse the economic impacts of the case study project on the local economy. In addition to the IO method, other benefit estimation methods such as Hedonic pricing and sports fields Usage Hours are also discussed in context of the case study site. On policy front, pricing of recycled water is further explored and lessons from solid waste recycling applied. The community's reluctance to accept potable reuse indicates that recycled water is not yet considered a direct substitute for virgin water. A sound water pricing regime that reflects the true costs of water and a competitive water industry is discussed as a critical policy platform for viable water recycling industry. With 21st century water management transforming into a multi-dimensional challenge of water security, a holistic multi-dimensional approach is essential. By applying different aspects of the case study inquiry lens, this research adopted a multi-dimensional approach in exploring social, economic and technical characteristics of a single water mining case study.
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