Recycled water research

Melbourne Water is an industry leader in research that informs water recycling. We are represented in several groups including:

  • WateReuse Research Foundation – Australian representative
  • Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence – member of the Research Advisory Council
  • Water Quality Research Australia – Board member

We are also involved in a range of studies and projects to investigate alternative water supplies and understand more about recycled water.

Aquifer storage and recovery

An aquifer is a body of permeable rock that can contain or transmit water. Aquifer storage and recovery involves storing water underground that can be drawn out at a later time.

Recycled water could be used to restore natural underground reservoirs that are overdrawn or may be providing poorer quality water. This would offer an alternative to storing recycled water above ground, which is impractical due to limited space, high costs and high evaporation rates.

Together with other water companies in Melbourne, we are researching potential underground locations to store recycled water and treated stormwater for future water needs and environmental benefits. We recently helped facilitate a trial at the Western Treatment Plant by City West Water. The results of this trial will be available soon.

Smart Water Fund

The Smart Water Fund is a partnership between Melbourne Water, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Melbourne’s three retail water businesses. It runs a number of research projects focussing on recycled water and stormwater. These include:

  • researching new technologies to produce recycled water and stormwater
  • ensuring recycled water and stormwater continue to be used safely and effectively
  • guidelines for using recycled water, for example for industry and horticulture

More information about these projects is available on the Smart Water Fund website:

Detecting blue-green algae

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Results of field test kit trials: the double lines of equal colour show that no toxin is present.

During the summer months, occasional blue-green algae blooms in the Western Treatment Plant lagoons produce toxins that force us to stop supplying recycled water. In the past, samples were sent to a laboratory in Adelaide for toxin testing.  However, these toxins can now be detected within one hour thanks to field test kits that have recently come on the market.

We funded a research trial to check that these toxin-testing kits give accurate readings in lagoon water. We now use the test kits to help decide whether recycled water can be safely supplied when blue-green algal blooms occur.

Ceramic membranes for treating wastewater

Together with Victoria University, we are trialling the use of ceramic membranes to produce recycled water.

Membranes are already used to remove small particles from treated wastewater. However, ceramic membranes can be cleaned with chemicals which would destroy membranes made from other materials, and they have a much longer life.

If the trial is successful, it may be possible to reduce the cost of producing of recycled water.

Cost of stormwater harvesting

We are sponsoring a project to measure the cost of water produced by an innovative stormwater harvesting system that responds to rainfall levels and local demand for recycled water.

The system harvests stormwater from an underground stormwater drain, then treats and stores it underground in a shallow aquifer. When needed, the water is withdrawn and used to water the local oval and flush toilets. It can also be put back into the stormwater drain and drawn out 10 kilometres downstream by a secondary school to flush toilets and water their oval.

The entire system is controlled from Adelaide and demonstrates advanced harvesting techniques. We are collecting data from the system to determine the cost of producing water.

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