Video: Western Treatment Plant hands-free tour

Audio described version


Narrator – N1 (Amelia Moseley)
Speaker 1 – S1 (Kim O’Hoy, Education Officer, Melbourne Water)


N1:    Tens of thousands of years before the Western Treatment Plant was built in Werribee, the Traditional Owners - the Wadawurrung people - were walking this land.
This region is sacred, and their history speaks through the landscape and ancient sites, the rivers, rocks and trees. For this and many other reasons, we will work respectfully and in partnership with them, as they are the Traditional Custodians of this land.

[Footage of the land at the Western Treatment Plant with the You Yangs in the background and a black kite circling the skies.]

N1:    The story of the Western Treatment Plant began in 1891, when the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works purchased 9000 acres of Werribee land for a hundred and sixty thousand pounds — big bucks!

[Vintage footage of the establishment of the Western Treatment Plant, with old machines clearing the land and men of the time talking together.]

N1:    Back then, Melbourne was hardly a paradise. It was growing too fast for its own good. And to make matters worse, the Nightmen – whose job it was to empty outside toilets – were dumping loads of waste into the Yarra River. Nice...

[Vintage footage of the Nightmen and an old outdoor toilet on the banks of the Yarra River.]

N1:    The city soon earned the nickname 'Smellbourne'. But it was no laughing matter. Diseases like typhoid spread and one in four kids was dying of bacterial infections 
related to dirty water.

The government had to act, and following a Royal Commission, the decision was made to build a new sewerage system at Werribee. Voila — the Western Treatment Plant - what we affectionately call WTP - was born.

[Vintage footage of a map of Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs, men meeting together and early images taken out at the WTP.]

N1:    Pretty soon, new suburbs were hooked up to this incredible sewerage system and so began a story which features cutting-edge science, innovations in public health and machines that look like the world’s biggest milkshake makers.

[Vintage footage of houses progresses to footage of present day at the Western Treatment Plant, with pipes and the aerator pond.]

N1:    But it’s the people that make this plant remarkable. Let me introduce you to Kim O’Hoy. Kim is part of the Education team at Melbourne Water and is super passionate about sharing her knowledge and helping others learn all about water.

[Footage of workers at the WTP and then a still image of a woman, Kim O’Hoy, standing in front of a channel of water at the Plant.]

S1:    There’s about 500 million litres of sewage that come into the WTP every day. This is sewage that hasn’t been treated yet. It comes from your homes, it comes from businesses, and it comes from industry. The sewage in this channel is about 99% water and 1% solid. It travels from your homes in pipes. The pipes get larger and larger, and the largest pipes that we have are 4 metres in diameter. The sewage in the pipes travels deep below the ground. And by the time it comes to the WTP, about thirty five kilometres away from the CBD, it actually comes up to the surface and flows through this channel.

[Footage of Kim talking in a Melbourne Water branded fluorescent vest, which then changes to various shots of channels, and pipes of all shapes and sizes.]

N1:    Every day, teams at Melbourne Water are working to come up with new ways to make our city more liveable. Keeping sewage away from the public is obviously important for health reasons. But in terms of the good things that happen at the Western 
Treatment Plant, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

[Footage of scientists and sewage going through the treatment process.]

N1:    Nearly half of the Plant’s ten thousand hectares of land is devoted to farming livestock and crops. Like canola, which not only looks like bee heaven, but can be used for things like cooking oil. There are also vast wetlands that are protected under local, national and global conservation laws. This incredible habitat provides a refuge for frogs and other fauna. And then are the birds. Hundreds of species from as far away as Siberia come here to feast and forage. The Plant is actually one of Australia’s top birdwatching sites! 

[Aerial footage of vast open paddocks with the You Yangs in the background, yellow canola fields and the beautiful wetland lagoons at the Plant. Medium close-ups of the birdwatching groups looking at the bird species at the wetlands.]

N1:    As the name suggests though, the Western Treatment Plant’s number one job is treating Melbourne’s sewage until it becomes a very clean version of its former self. You can’t drink this water — well, not yet at least... but it can be used in your home as well as in many other ways too. Even the hippos at Werribee Open Range Zoo use Class A recycled water produced at the WTP to splash around in. How cool is that?

[Footage of sewage being treated and recycled water being used in the garden and in the hippo enclosure.]

S1:    Our best class of recycled water at the WTP is Class A. We use ultraviolet light and chlorine to disinfect it. Class A recycled water can be used to flush toilets, it can be used on sports grounds, and it can also be used anywhere where it's fit for purpose.

[Footage of Kim standing in the grounds of the Werribee Mansion talking about recycled water.]

N1:    Think about that for a moment. Water that would normally get flushed away suddenly becomes a valuable resource again.

[Footage of a toilet flushing and recycled water irrigating crops.]

S1:    Because not all water in Melbourne needs to be drinkable, we can use Class A recycled water for other purposes — helping protect our drinking water supplies, especially during drought.

[Close-up footage of water, recycled water irrigating grounds and Kim talking to camera.]

N1:    There it is, the D word. A country as dry as Australia needs alternative water 
sources, especially as our climate grows hotter and drier. And Class A recycled water is a major one. Let's hear it for Class A!

[Footage of an animal skeleton in a dry, orange desert, red earth and a hot sun over an burnt orange city scene.]

S1:    Class A Recycled Water builds resilience in Melbourne’s water supply. This is about ensuring Melbourne remains a great place to live, tomorrow and into the future.

[Footage of Kim talking to camera, pipes at the WTP that carry water and a city shot with the Yarra and buildings visible.] 

N1:    The city of Melbourne gets bigger by the week.

S1:    Did you know that Melbourne is predicted to grow to 9 million people in the next 50 years?

N1:    They’re big numbers. And do you know what that means? 

S1:    More people, more homes and more sewage.

N1:    Right on, Kim.

[Footage of Kim talking to camera, pipes at the WTP that carry water and a city shot with the Yarra and buildings visible.] 

S1:    Climate change predictions tell us that there will be warmer, drier periods. This will put more pressure on water and sewerage systems.

N1:    It means our current sewage system must evolve. That’s why engineers, scientists and planners here at the Plant are working hard to prepare for future generations. AKA your kids and grandkids.

[Footage Kim talking to camera with the Yarra in the background, the sewage system at the WTP and Melbourne Water scientists talking together and one scientist testing water.] 

S1:    Melbourne Water is committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We are working with research teams at universities to achieve this. Another part of planning for our future is creating a circular economy where nothing is wasted and everything is valued as a resource.

[Footage Kim talking to camera with the Yarra in the background, industrial burners burning off excess gas at the WTP and fingers typing on a computer keyboard.] 

N1:    A more sustainable future depends on us. Not just our experts, but you and me and the choices we make every day.

So be a part of this fascinating story about our water future, and learn more about The Western Treatment Plant in our Virtual Tour.

[Footage of a circular tank at the WTP, an aerial shot of a forest with a creek running through it, a hand turning off a tap and an end shot of the expanse of lagoons at the WTP. ]

[music] [on screen text: Melbourne Water logo.]