Australia’s first groundwater replenishment trial launched

Western Australia’s water minister, Graham Jacobs, launched Australia’s first Groundwater Replenishment Trial on 30 November 2010, which research indicates may be cheaper than desalination.

The trial follows extensive commissioning of a purpose-built advanced water-recycling plant in Craigie, north of Perth. The treatment process involves three main stages – ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection.

Dr Jacobs said the Water Corporation would run the trial to determine if recycled water could potentially help boost Perth’s drinking water supplies.

“Groundwater replenishment is one of several innovative options the corporation is looking at for future water sources,” he said. “The plant will produce up to 5,000 m³/d of recycled water which is then recharged to a confined aquifer 120-200 m underground.”

The federal government has contributed Aus$ 19.4 million (US$ 18.6 million) to the trial through the Water Smart Australia program. The Water Corporation will contribute Aus$ 31.5 million (US$ 30.1 million) over the trial’s three-year life.

Minister Jacobs said, “The trial is a great opportunity for us to safely explore the idea of using recycled water for drinking purposes. Although the technologies used in the advanced recycling process have been proven to work successfully elsewhere in the world, this trial will test them in local conditions.”

Dr Jacobs said the trial would also help to confirm desktop research indicating groundwater replenishment may be cheaper and require less energy than seawater desalination. The corporation has built a visitor centre next to the new plant to be a major part of a forthcoming community education campaign on groundwater replenishment.

“Community support will be essential to the success of the Groundwater Replenishment Trial,” the minister said. “The corporation is committed to keeping the community informed throughout the trial and the visitor centre has been built to help achieve this goal.”