Doncaster Hill Recycled Water Project
Yarra Valley Water is proposing a new Recycled Water Treatment Plant in Melbourne’s east.
The Plant will deliver Class A recycled water to over 5,000 new homes, providing a drought-proof water supply that will save 2.5 million litres of precious drinking water each week. The water from the Plant could also be used to drought-proof critical community assets like parks and sports grounds.
It’s an important part of our commitment to save precious drinking water for Melbourne’s growing population, in an increasingly hot and dry climate.
Independent Panel recommends Eram Park
In mid-2017, Yarra Valley Water appointed an Independent Panel to listen and gather community feedback about five proposed sites for the Plant.
Throughout an extensive public deliberation process, the Independent Panel held 10 community deliberation sessions and heard from over 1,500 people.
Taking into account all they heard, the Independent Panel has recommended Eram Park as the preferred site for the Recycled Water Treatment Plant.
The Panel concluded that Eram Park was the most suitable site because it was the furthest from homes with the lowest impact to the community. It was also the most preferred by the most people who attended the deliberative forums.
The Panel concluded that with sympathetic design and careful siting, the Plant could provide community benefits. The Panel also recommended that Yarra Valley Water consider locating the Plant underground.
Protecting open space and amenity
We appreciate that siting a Plant in an existing urban setting can generate concern for those living nearby and the for the broader community regarding the potential loss of open space. Through the community consultation process the Panel identified opportunities to address those concerns including how the Plant integrates with the landscape, which could potentially involve putting the Plant underground. The Panel has also raised the possibility of expanding recycled water supply to benefit more people in surrounding areas.
Stage 1 of the project, which related to identifying the location for the treatment plant, was completed in late 2017.
We will now undertake further work to investigate the possibilities identified by the Panel and consult with stakeholders regarding the future of the project.
What is the Recycled Water Scheme?
We are planning to provide recycled water to over 5,000 new properties in the Doncaster Hill area, in and around the Westfield Doncaster shopping centre. It’s an important part of our commitment to save precious drinking water for Melbourne’s growing population, in an increasingly hot and dry climate.
Identifying a location for the Recycled Water Treatment Plant
To produce enough recycled water to supply the Doncaster Hill area, Yarra Valley Water must build a Recycled Water Treatment Plant somewhere nearby and close to a major sewer. While we understand the technical aspects of what would be a suitable location for a treatment plant, we also need to understand the views and opinions of people in the community about each of the potential treatment plant locations.
To get these insights, we established a three-person Independent Panel, chaired by Rob Gell. During September 2017, the Independent Panel oversaw a public deliberation process to identify the best site for the treatment plant that will eventually produce the recycled water. Further feedback was accepted up until 13 October 2017. Over 1,500 people were involved through the deliberative process.
The Independent Panel reviewed the feedback and provided a Report to Yarra Valley Water about what they heard, and a recommendation about where the treatment plant should be located.
Independent Panel Report
Following the community deliberation with over 1,500 people, the Independent Panel identified Eram Park as the preferred site for a new Recycled Water Treatment Plant.
The Independent Panel found that of the five sites under consideration, Eram Park was the furthest from homes, would have the lowest impact on the local community and was preferred by a majority of residents, while receiving the lowest number of objections as compared to other sites.
As well as providing recycled water to over 5,000 new homes the Panel recommended that the water could be used to drought proof local parks, sports grounds and other community assets nearby.
The Panel also recommended exploring options for minimising impacts to amenity such as locating the Plant underground.
Where will the recycled water be used?
This project will provide recycled water to over 5,000 properties (some completed and others currently under construction) in the Doncaster Hill precinct, and to the nearby Tullamore development (formerly the Eastern Golf Course).
The Doncaster Hill precinct is a mixed use sustainable urban village covering 58 hectares centred on the intersection of Doncaster and Williamsons/Tram roads in Doncaster, surrounding the Westfield Doncaster shopping centre.
Manningham City Council, the planning authority for this area, has developed a 20-year strategy to construct over 5,000 new residential apartments and attract five million extra visitors a year to the precinct. The nearby Tullamore development is also being designed to be a sustainable living precinct.
The recycled water that will be supplied to the area will be able to be used for flushing toilets, washing clothes, watering gardens and car washing.
How much drinking water would be saved?
By using recycled water for flushing toilets, washing clothes, watering gardens and car washing, we can reduce drinking water use by up to 25%. This is a saving of approximately 2.5 million litres every week.
Recycled water - what is it and how will we do it?
Recycled water is water from sewerage systems or industrial manufacturing processes that is treated to a ‘fit for purpose’ standard for a specific use. This type of water is not suitable for drinking but it is ideal for flushing toilets, washing clothes, watering gardens and car washing. It’s known as ‘Class A’ water which is the highest quality of recycled water available in Melbourne.
Class A water is increasingly being supplied to all new homes being constructed in the northern part of Yarra Valley Water’s service district and in many other new housing developments in the urban growth areas of Melbourne and around Australia.
The Class A water that will be produced for Doncaster Hill is the same standard. This water is also frequently used across Victoria and the rest of the country for agricultural use such as growing vegetables and other crops.
Is recycled water safe to use?
Class A recycled water is safe for its intended uses.
The recycled water supply is continuously monitored and checked to assure its quality. This is a compliance requirement of the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the regulators of recycled water use.
Where will this recycled water come from and how will it be treated?
Sewage will be pumped out of a large sewer in the area, a process commonly known as ‘sewer mining’. It will then be treated to a Class A standard and stored in tanks ready for use.
The treatment process explained
What does the treatment involve?
The sewage will be treated using a combination of techniques. It will be filtered first to remove large objects like cotton buds and other rubbish. Chemicals and bacteria will further treat the sewage before it will be finally disinfected using ultra violet light to kill any harmful bacteria. This kind of treatment is a reliable and proven method to treat sewage.
How do the properties get the treated water?
A specially constructed pipeline will transfer the water to the properties. They have been plumbed with an extra pipe (known as a ‘third pipe’ and purple in colour), to be able to take this recycled water and to keep it separate from drinking water pipes.
The treatment plant site
The treatment plant site will consist of a building that will contain pumps to take sewage from the sewer, and tanks to hold and treat it. There will also be other pumps at the site that will pump the treated water to households. Outside the building, there will be a tank to store the treated water prior to its delivery via an underground pipe to the properties at Doncaster Hill.
The treatment plant will also need a vertical pipe (known as a vent stack) with an odour treatment system inside it to filter out and clean any gases from the treatment process before they are released into the air. These types of vent stacks are usually approximately 15 metres high.
To ensure any nearby residents or businesses are not affected by the plant’s operations, the location and design of the treatment plant must meet strict planning and environmental requirements.
What are these requirements?
We will need a Council Planning Permit and a Works Approval from the EPA. The EPA will not approve the proposed treatment plant unless its design meets strict environmental requirements, specifically odour and noise.
What are the gases that will require treatment?
Sewers contain gases. Some examples are hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. The gases form in the sewer from the breakdown of the sewage. They will need to be treated to meet the strict limits set by the EPA to ensure the treatment plant doesn’t release odours and for the safety of people who operate and maintain these facilities.
What kinds of chemicals are used to treat the sewage?
Many of the chemicals typically used include familiar household chemicals that can be stored and used safely with appropriate controls. The chemicals are:
- Hydrochloric acid – an acid used to clean the filtration membranes. Hydrochloric acid is used in a range of domestic and commercial cleaning applications such as brick cleaning
- Sodium hypochlorite – an ingredient of household bleach and for chlorination of swimming pools
- Caustic soda – an ingredient of household bleach
- Aluminium sulphate – a coagulant that attracts and binds small particles to form a larger mass that is easier to filter out of the water.
As well as treating the sewage, these chemicals will also be used for cleaning equipment. None of these chemicals are flammable and would be in a liquid form contained in a dedicated closed storage area.
How big will the treatment plant be?
The treatment plant building itself will be roughly the size of a traditional house block (750 square metres). One of the options for is for the Plant to be set underground.
What are the impacts of putting something like this in a built-up area?
We’ll construct the building to fit in with the surrounding area. One of the options is for the Plant to be set underground. There will also be people visiting the site on an ongoing basis for maintenance and chemical deliveries.
The building will be sound-proofed to stop any noise being audible outside and it will be well-sealed to ensure any odours from the treatment process can be properly treated within the building.
Is it necessary to have a treatment plant in a built up suburban area?
We need to be able to supply recycled water at a reasonable cost and so it will need to be in close proximity to the area being serviced. The major sewage treatment plants in Melbourne are located at Bangholme and Werribee, a long way from Yarra Valley Water’s area of operation. Pumping recycled water back from these locations to Yarra Valley Water’s area would be extremely expensive and would produce much more greenhouse gases (a key contributor to climate change) compared to producing the recycled water locally.
Are there any examples of these kinds of treatment plants elsewhere?
An underground treatment plant using the same technology as proposed is now working in Yarra Park near the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This is operated by the Melbourne Cricket Club. There are other examples of these kinds of treatment plants of varying sizes around Victoria and in other states.
The pros and cons of other water sources
Can’t you use water from the desalination plant?
The desalination plant can supply up to 150 billion litres of water per year - about one third of Melbourne’s annual water consumption. The State Government’s Water Plan Water for Victoria stresses the importance in a drying climate of not being reliant on one source of water – to ensure we have a diverse and cost effective range of water sources for the future. Yarra Valley Water’s Recycled Water Scheme provides one of those alternative water sources.
Why don’t you use stormwater?
Stormwater is water harvested from rainfall. As our rainfall becomes more unpredictable because of climate change, there is a risk that a continuous supply of water from this source may not always be possible. If this were to happen we would need to top up the supplies with drinking water, placing extra and avoidable demand on our drinking water supply.
Stormwater also requires a treatment plant plus a large area of land to provide a storage tank to harvest the water during rain events. This adds extra cost and the requirement for extra land.
Why we are using sewage
Sewage is a more reliable source. Ninety-five (95%) per cent of sewage is water and this means that a reliable and continuous supply of recycled water would be available to service the Doncaster Hill area.
Revisiting the project
Haven’t you tried to do this before?
Yes. In 2012 we consulted with people in the Doncaster area about a proposed site for a treatment plant at Tram Road Reserve in Doncaster. We submitted a planning permit application to Manningham City Council and a Works Approval application to the EPA. The EPA issued a Works Approval but the council ultimately rejected our planning permit application so we decided at that time to defer the project.
We learned that people were not opposed to the idea of introducing recycled water to the area but had clear views about where a treatment plant should not be located.
What is different this time?
We engaged an Independent Panel to conduct a deliberative engagement process for us. This involved presenting five possible sites, each with their own specific attributes, for people to consider and provide their views about the most suitable location.
During September 2017, the Independent Panel oversaw a public deliberation process to identify the best site for the treatment plant that will eventually produce the recycled water. More than 1,500 people were involved throughout the deliberative process.
The Independent Panel has provided their feedback in a report to Yarra Valley Water about what they heard, and a recommendation about where the treatment plant should be located. The views captured through the process have played an important part in choosing the site location.
Finding a location for the treatment plant
Did Yarra Valley Water have a view about the best place to put a treatment plant like this?
Infrastructure for our essential services - water, gas and electricity - is located throughout our community – under roads, in nature strips, in road reserves, in pipe tracks, through private and commercial properties and in public open space.
Through the deliberative process the Independent Panel worked with people in the local community to find an acceptable location that will also enable the treatment plant to be able to operate effectively. In the materials we provided for the deliberative process we indicated the pros and cons of each of the potential sites from our perspective.
These kinds of localised treatment plants work best being close to the area they will service.
We know that finding suitable locations for some new infrastructure that require a bit of land can be more challenging, particularly in highly urbanised areas.
Considering possible treatment plant locations
Our criteria for shortlisting possible treatment plant sites includes:
- How close the plant is to the Doncaster Hill development (who will receive the recycled water supply)
- The availability of existing open space, to accommodate a plant the size of 2,400 square metres
- Ability to directly access a large sewer pipe nearby
- How close the plant would be to houses
- The cost to build the plant
- What the current and future use of the land is.
Other examples of recycled water treatment plants in built up areas
We’ve provided these examples to give you an idea of how they look and how they have been designed to fit into the local surrounds.
Melbourne Cricket Ground (Melbourne, Victoria)
This recycled water treatment plant produces more than 180 million litres of water each year, reducing the Melbourne Cricket Club’s use of drinking water by 50 per cent.
The water is primarily re-used as irrigation in Yarra Park, as well as for cleaning and toilet flushing at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and at nearby Punt Road Oval.
As one of the first of its type in Victoria, the plant has been built underground.
Artist's impression of a treatment plant (Doncaster Hill Recycled Water Project)
This is an artist’s impression to give you an idea of what a treatment plant could look like once constructed.
We see an opportunity to design a treatment plant that is harmonious with the landscape, and will add benefit to the local community. The Independent Panel has also recommended considering locating the Recycled Water Treatment Plant underground like the MCG Plant.
We expect construction of the infrastructure required (buildings, tanks and pipes, etc.) will cost around $28 million, depending on its location. The additional direct costs to provide recycled water will be recovered through a combination of developer contributions and ongoing charges for customers across our service area.
The Essential Services Commission (ESC) regulates what we can charge.
Will this impact on my water bill?
The scheme will have no impact on customer bills.
Why should I care?
This project is about the sustainable growth of Melbourne. Decisions about the value, needs and merits of these kinds of projects are made by relevant government organisations (state and local) on behalf of the wider community.
While the need for such projects may be widely recognised and broadly supported by the people in the wider community, the process for finding a suitable location for a particular facility needs to be undertaken with care and respect for the specific community in which the facility might be located.
Our commitment is to make the conversation with people as broad and inclusive as we can, to enable us to make the best decision possible - one that is broadly supported by most people.
If there hasn’t been recycled water delivered to the apartments by now, what has been delivered and how?
Where recycled water is unavailable, we supply drinking water.
Why didn’t you build the recycled water treatment plant before the apartments were built?
The timing of when to build infrastructure like this is when the actual demand exists – that is, when there are enough properties constructed that would be able to receive the recycled water.
As the area will be progressively developed over the next 20 years and for maximum economic efficiency the treatment plant needs to be completed in the next few years.
To provide the necessary certainty for developers about plumbing requirements, Yarra Valley Water mandated the area as a recycled water area to support Council’s planning objectives. This was done to provide clear expectations for developers about constructing buildings with the right plumbing.
When will the treatment plant be built?
When we complete consultation with stakeholders to determine the future of the project, we would then do the necessary design work and seek the required council and EPA approvals. Typically, the time it takes to plan, design, construct and commission a facility could take at least three years.
How long will construction take? Will there be disruptions to surrounding properties during construction?
With a project like this, we expect construction works to take approximately 18 months. During this time, we would work with any nearby residents or businesses to minimise the impact, but some disruption may be unavoidable.
The main disruption is usually from construction noise and increased construction traffic. Sometime we need to temporarily close roads as we construct the pipelines to service the properties.
Will there be staff permanently on site?
No. The Recycled Water Treatment Plant will be remotely monitored 24 hours per day, but staff will need to visit the site daily. There will also be monthly deliveries which will require truck access.
Will the treatment plant affect property values?
An independent certified property valuer has advised us that if the treatment plant is designed to be unobtrusive, is appropriately screened and can’t be heard or smelt from adjoining properties, then it will be unlikely to have an adverse impact on property values.