Coined as the ‘Sunburnt Country’, Australia is a continent where water scarcity and quality closely intertwine with environmental challenges. However, a dedicated legion of professionals stand sentinel on the frontlines of water, wastewater, and desalination treatment plants. These unsung heroes work round-the-clock to secure one of earth’s most precious resources – water.

The guardians of clean water

The ever-shifting environmental factors in Australia have a profound impact on the clarity, purity, and safety of its waters. From droughts concentrating pollutants to urbanisation’s runoff, our water sources are faced with constant challenges. The efforts of water treatment professionals, often hidden from the public eye, are the backbone of Australia’s resilience against the march of climate change and population growth.

However, Australia’s water treatment landscape is not immune to the dynamic currents of change. Several trends have emerged, guiding the direction of the industry and shaping the experiences of those on the frontline:

1. Sustainability as a North Star

Sustainability has woven itself into the everyday fabric of water treatment and infrastructure. The push for reduced energy consumption, lower carbon footprints, and enhanced resource efficiency are now central considerations in plant operations. SUEZ’s Vice President of Operations and Delivery, Mark Lautre, highlights the critical role that SUEZ-operated treatment plants play in ensuring the most sustainable use of water. “Our commitment goes beyond today; it’s about ensuring water security for generations.

For instance, one of SA Water’s wastewater treatment plants in Adelaide – which we operate as the utility’s production and treatment alliance partner – has incorporated advanced aeration control technologies, saving up to 20 per cent on energy and methanol,” Mr Lautre said.

2. Digital transformation

The rise of digital technology has revolutionised water treatment plants. Plant operators now interact with digitised systems and smart technologies as much as they do with equipment, making decisions based on predictive insights rather than reactive measures.

Evan Atkinson, General Manager at SUEZ Smart Solutions in Australia and New Zealand, highlights how automation, real-time monitoring, and data analytics have heralded a transformative era for treatment plants. “Step by step, this transformation leads to real-world benefits including; consistently higher water quality, reduced wear and tear on our plants, and lower consumption of energy and chemicals. More than this, it’s driving the team to push the bar up on what’s possible for our plants,” Mr Atkinson said.

3. Desalination’s renaissance

In the face of water scarcity, desalination has emerged as a key solution. Desalination plants are like oases in the desert, conjuring fresh water from the saline depths of the sea. Working in these plants requires specialised knowledge and a deep understanding of the intricacies of the reverse osmosis process. The Victorian Desalination Plant (VDP) is a prime example of this in action. Operated and maintained by ‘Watersure’, a Joint Venture between SUEZ and Ventia, the plant provides Melbourne’s metropolitan area and regional Victoria with a reliable source of up to 150GL per year of high quality drinking water.

4. Climate resilience

On a macro scale, rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns due to climate change can influence water quality. Higher temperatures can increase the growth of harmful bacteria, while changes in rainfall can impact water availability and dilution capacities, affecting pollutant concentrations. Intense bushfires release ash, debris, and chemicals into water bodies and waterways, leading to increased turbidity, elevated levels of heavy metals, and reduced water quality. As Australia grapples with increasingly erratic weather patterns, water treatment plants must build climate-resilience by accounting and adapting for extreme weather events.

Leaving a precious legacy

As we turn on our taps without a second thought, let’s remember the individuals who work in the background to ensure that the water flowing into our lives is pure and safe. The frontline of water, wastewater, and desalination treatment plants in Australia embodies both challenges and triumphs. It’s a realm where science meets dedication, where innovation meets responsibility. So, the next time you take a sip of clean water, remember the unsung heroes who make it possible.

To learn more about how SUEZ secures reliable water supplies for Australian communities, visit www.suez.com.au

1 Comment
  1. John Gemmill 3 months ago

    The Victorian Desalination Plant has barely run since it was built and cost far more than other similar plants. It still costs taxpayers 2million dollars a day as “an insurance policy” .
    It uses an enormous amount of energy in comparison with other options and is therefore a climate change accelerating technology.
    Your “journalistic” creditionals are laughable.

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