Use of Reclaimed Effluent Water in Australian Horticulture
Australia currently sends to ‘waste’ close to 86% of effluent water. In the past 4 years national re-use of effluent has doubled to 14% of all effluent produced, however this remains a small proportion of the amount of water still running to ‘waste’. The potential exists to use this water for horticultural production freeing up costly potable water. There are concerns about the use of recycled water from both a horticultural producer and consumer perspective. Participants throughout the supply chain need to be aware of and minimise the potential risks and maximise the benefits of using this resource.
- Gain understanding of the national issues facing the horticulture industry for sustainable use of recycled water
- Generate practices and opportunities that will lead to increased use of recycled water by the horticultural sector
- Identify climatic differences that influence the sustainable use of recycled water
The project worked in close partnership with the National Coordinator for Recycled Water in Horticulture (funded by Horticulture Australia Ltd). The project has developed guidelines for growers as well as policy makers; and produced a hand-held salinity ‘wheel’ for use in the field.
Australia currently wastes close to 86% (1,376,000 ML) of its treated effluent water (reclaimed water). While use of reclaimed sewage effluent has increased over the past decade it still remains a small proportion of the amount of water running to waste. The potential exists to use this reclaimed water for horticultural production (including viticulture and amenity horticulture) freeing up significant volumes of irrigation water for alternative uses (eg potable).
Stage 1 of this project (national scoping study) determined the resource potential for reclaimed water in horticultural production and developed a systems framework for the assessment of potential benefits and risk associated with reclaimed water. The scoping study established a network of stakeholders representing a diversity of backgrounds and identified key gaps in knowledge. Stage 1 laid the foundation for, and clearly identified the key areas of research and development required in the next stage of the project.
Stage 2 of the project focused on the development and application of collective knowledge to enable the adoption of sustainable and safe practices for growers using reclaimed water for horticultural production. The issue was tackled using a multidisciplinary approach undertaking strategic analysis, social and biophysical research and knowledge management.