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Australia: Environmental awareness and lagoon-based wastewater treatment plants.

 

Australia is the driest inhabited continent and water scarcity has been worsening during last decades, with growing population and climate change effects. As a result, most inhabitants of big cities realized the need to protect their limited water resources. Between 2000 and 2009, the country managed to reduce water consumption per capita by 40%, and joined those water scarce countries in recognizing wastewater as valuable resource.

Each state and territory has the responsibility to regulate and manage natural resources and public health within its jurisdiction. However, among the most influential policies related to wastewater management, the 2004 National Water Initiative was signed by all of Australia’s state and territorial governments to ensure a homogenous approach across the country. In 2010, the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence was further established to undertake research and broaden the use of recycled water. Water conservation and non-potable recycling initiatives are now embedded across the country, and have become mainstream in most new urban developments.

Although historically, agriculture represented the biggest demand for recycled water, future projections show a dominating demand for municipal, industrial and commercial use, as well as for environmental protection.

The City of Melbourne (4 million inhabitants), one of Australia’s largest and driest cities, provides a good illustration of this evolution, by treating half of its wastewaters in 11,000 HA of lagoons (the Western Treatment Plant) which constitute one of the world’s largest lagoon-based wastewater treatment plant. The area around the plant host thousand of birds and is listed as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention since 1982. It also receives thousand of visitors each year for the educational purposes.