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Recycled water management in Gisborne

Each year, Gisborne RWP treats more than 600 million litres of sewage to produce Class B recycled water. This water is a valuable local resource that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Gisborne water cycle

Recycled water that isn’t used locally is released into Jacksons Creek under strict controls set out in the plant’s licence to discharge from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

What is Class B recycled water?

Recycled water is the name given to sewage once it has been filtered and disinfected to make it suitable for reuse. There are several classes of recycled water depending on the level of treatment and resulting quality.

Class B is a suitable quality of recycled water for irrigating recreational areas, such as sports ovals, stockfeed (excluding pigs), non-food crops or human food crops that are cooked, processed, peeled and/or grow more than one metre above the ground.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is responsible for the classification, control and usage of recycled water in Victoria.

How is recycled water used locally?

Currently there are around 20 customers for the Class B recycled water supply from Gisborne.

Within Gisborne, these customers include sportsfields, recreation areas, the botanic garden, golf course and bowling green. Refer to our recycled water cycle graphic (above) to see where these users are located.

Using recycled water in this way has kept the town’s major outdoor spaces green, regardless of restrictions, and, in doing so, reduced demand on precious drinking water supplies.

Since 2012, we have also supplied recycled water through the Gisborne Recycled Water Scheme to a number of agricultural customers in Gisborne South. They now have a guaranteed, year-round supply of water which protects them from periods of low rainfall. These properties produce grapes, olives, cherries and livestock fodder crops.

Recycled water users must comply with strict guidelines about the use of recycled water including providing site management plans and undergoing regular audits.

Western Water is actively seeking new opportunities for recycled water use in the Gisborne area – including watering green spaces in new estates and more agricultural uses.

If you would like to enquire about large-scale use of Class B recycled water from Gisborne RWP, please contact feasibilityteam@westernwater.com.au.

How is recycled water released into Jacksons Creek?

Releasing recycled water into Jacksons Creek has been an essential component of our sewage management process at Gisborne since the plant was constructed in the early 1980s.

At the time, a maximum discharge limit for recycled water was set by the EPA of 2,400 kilolitres per day. This limit has remained in place to this day and, over time, the quality of the recycled water released to Jacksons Creek has improved to safeguard the health of the waterway. Currently, an average of 1,500 kilolitres of recycled water is discharged to the creek per day.

An increase to the limit is likely to be required to address increasing volumes resulting from population growth. These volumes will be higher quality recycled water due to the upgrade. Our current expectation is to request an increased limit of up to 3,500 kilolitres per day to ensure we can match growth through to 2035.

However, we are looking for more ways to minimise future discharge volumes:

  • investing in maintenance projects to reduce added sewage flows that come from infiltration of the sewerage network, and
  • looking to sign up more users for recycled water – particularly for green spaces in new housing estates and new agricultural users.

Releases are more regular during winter months when demand for recycled water from customers is lower due to winter rainfalls. This is also when flows in the waterway are higher, helping dilute the recycled water in the creek.

How does Western Water monitor its impact on the creek?

The discharge of recycled water into the creek will have an impact on its water quality. However, our licence to discharge from the EPA stipulates the volume of recycled water we can release to Jacksons Creek as well as the level of pollutants and nutrients in the recycled water when it enters the creek.

Western Water is committed to protecting the health of Jacksons Creek. We undertake detailed environmental risk assessments for our discharge activities and we also continuously monitor the quality of recycled water and the creek to meet the environmental compliance standards set by the EPA for the treatment plant.

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