UTS turns the tap on recycled water partnership
- UTS is tapping into recycled water sourced from a plant at Central Park to reduce our potable water use.
- This world-first partnership shows how innovative water recycling projects can thrive in cities and urban settings, improving the resilience of local neighbourhoods facing drought conditions.
Getting access to a steady supply of water can seem as simple as turning on a tap. But with many regions across Australia facing more intense and longer periods of drought conditions – and the entire state of NSW recently declared in drought – there’s a proven need for innovative projects that take the pressure off our potable (drinking) water supply.
In most homes and buildings, purified drinking water is literally being flushed down the toilet every day. Drinking quality water isn’t needed to irrigate gardens, operate cooling systems or flush toilets - but for many buildings that’s the simplest option. A commitment to sustainability has spurred UTS to find a more sustainable option.
Across the road at the Central Park development, the Flow Systems water recycling plant is pumping out recycled water of a quality that can be used for irrigation, toilet flushing and other non-drinking uses. It has capacity to produce 1000 kL of recycled water each day – enough to fill nearly three Olympic-size swimming pools every week. However, the demand for recycled water on-site is nowhere near that high.
That’s where UTS steps in. By signing on as a customer for some of the excess recycled water, the university supports the viability of the scheme, while reducing its own potable water use.
While water recycling isn’t a new concept for city buildings, until now water recycling schemes have only delivered water within their immediate precinct. Buildings outside the precinct haven’t invested in the infrastructure needed to tap into the recycled water supply, due to the relatively cheap cost and availability of drinking water.
What makes this scheme unique is that UTS has recognised the long term benefits of building a system that delivers recycled water from the neighbouring plant to the campus. The water is delivered via pipes under Broadway put in place by horizontal drills that burrowed a path through the soil and rubble, deftly avoiding existing pipes and electrical cables. The pipes connect the Flow Systems plant to the basement of the new UTS Central building, where recycled water will be used be used for landscaping and toilet flushing. Other campus uses are also being considered.
It’s expected that the partnership will reduce UTS’s potable water use by around 20,000 kL – or eight Olympic swimming pools – each year. That reduction has a meaningful impact on the environmental footprint of the university – it reduces energy use and emissions, while cutting down wastewater that gets cycled into treatment facilities or pumped into the ocean. Importantly, the partnership also sets a precedent that will encourage the development of more water recycling projects in urban environments.
While UTS could have invested in an on-site rainwater tank for the UTS Central building, that option requires a vast amount of space and significant up-front capital costs. It also relies on a steady supply of rain. In contrast, the supply from Central Park, which is collected from grey water as well as rainwater, ensures a constant stream even in times of drought.
So, when Sydney next faces severe water restrictions, UTS will be able to keep our landscaping green and vibrant, while also reducing our use of the potable supply for toilet flushing. It might sound like a pipe dream, but thanks to this partnership, it’s a beautiful, sustainable reality.