From the CEO
What a start to the year! There was no gradual build up following the Christmas break, everyone in the water industry has hit the ground running as we contributed and worked on a number of key water sector initiatives.
First and foremost, we are excited to introduce you to our new website! The website is a key element of a wider review of VicWater’s communications strategy to ensure that we continue to provide our members with communication materials that are relevant, efficient and effective. The website provides more services to our members including a dedicated Members section providing members with access to up-to-date VicWater information including publications, guidance notes, meeting papers, and presentations.
As part of the new communications strategy, we have also decided to bring together all of our newsletters into the one quarterly edition of Water Matters. This means that articles which would usually appear in editions of Sustainability News, Biosolids News and the Water Efficiency & Demand Management News will now appear in Water Matters.
Have a look around our site and if you haven’t yet received your Member account log-in please contact email@example.com. We also strongly encourage feedback so that we can continue to improve how we communicate with our Members.
In other news, metro water corporations are awaiting the draft determination of the Water Corporation Water Plans from the ESC . Whilst regional and rural water corporation have reviewed the ESC’s assessment. This follows considerable work undertaken by Victoria’s water businesses, working with their customers and other relevant stakeholders to develop their submissions.
There are a number of critical issues in the water plan process and largely they relate to requirements of regulators, customer service outcomes and the levers that are used used to impact customer prices. Those levers being the expected customer demand, operational expenditure and capital expenditure and lastly the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC).
In addition to Water Plan related projects VicWater Task and Working Groups have been involved with Water Law Reform, Financial Viability, Key Performance Indicators, Asset Revaluation and Depreciation Guidelines, New Customer Contributions,and Red Tape Reduction. As well as delivering the Education Conference, Personal Card Security (PCS) Standards workshop and the Audit Chairs forum.
Once again thank you to the water corporation staff who have become involved in these processes, without your contribution VicWater could not respond effectively on behalf of our members.
At the IWA dinner at San Remo in February VicWater was pleased to announce the winner of the VicWater Leadership Development Award. The award was hotly contested with a number of excellent candidates but there can only be one winner and for 2013 it was awarded to Ms Sarah Johnston from East Gippsland Water.
The winner receives a three month work experience opportunity with Thames Water in the UK. We wish Sarah well in her work experience at Thames Water and I am sure she will bring back to Victoria a lot of valuable information to share with the Industry.
Chief Executive Officer, VicWater
Australian First: Plans for Innovative Waste to Energy Facility in Melbourne's North
In what will be an Australian first, Yarra Valley Water is developing an innovative Waste to Energy facility in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, which will convert organic waste destined for landfills into energy – reducing energy costs, waste to landfill and greenhouse gas emissions.
The ambitious project is part of the utility’s approach to operating its facilities within the carrying capacity of nature, delivering better outcomes for the environment and customers.
Yarra Valley Water has selected Aquatec-Maxcon, an Australian Company specialising in industrial wastewater treatment, as its partner to develop the facility.
‘We are designing the Waste to Energy facility to sit next to one of our existing sewage treatment plants,’ says Mr Tony Kelly, Managing Director at Yarra Valley Water.
‘The project will generate enough biogas to run the facility and the existing Sewage Treatment Plant by co-digesting sewage sludge with organic waste trucked to the site.
‘It’s a great solution for reusing organic waste that would otherwise go to landfill. Instead of treating our sludge as waste, we’re treating it as a product with value that can be reused to create and capture methane gas resulting in significant environmental and cost benefits.’
The Waste to Energy facility will provide an environmentally friendly disposal solution for organic wastes that cannot be composted.
‘The facility will help us meet our environmental obligations to reduce the quantity of nutrients being discharged into Port Phillip Bay, while creating a sewage treatment plant site that is energy self-sufficient,’ Mr Kelly says.
At the Waste to Energy facility, sewage sludge left over from the treatment plant process would be co-digested with imported organic waste in an anaerobic digester (sealed vessel) where it is converted into methane or “biogas” in the absence of oxygen. Impressively, this process captures the methane before it hits the environment and turns it into renewable energy, preventing greenhouse gas emissions.
Co-digestion is a process that is successfully used throughout the world, particularly in Europe and the United States of America.
Yarra Valley Water decided to use anaerobic digestion technology based on a business feasibility decision-making framework, which included a detailed site selection process to determine the most appropriate site for the first facility.
The feasibility study also identified numerous opportunities for recovery and re-use of organic waste.
East Gippsland Water's French Connection
East Gippsland Water will be discussing opportunities to further strengthen mutually beneficial links with France’s prestigious engineering school ENSIL, when it meets with the school’s principal in April.
Leading the way for the Victorian water industry, East Gippsland Water’s previous Managing Director, Les Mathieson, initiated an internship program offering ENSIL students three-month placements with participating water corporations over the winter period.
The program, launched in 2010, enables students specialising in water and the environment to gain an invaluable appreciation of Australia’s water issues and engineering practices. It also provides water industry professionals here with an insight into the water engineering industry in France.
ENSIL Principal, Patrick Leprat, will discuss opportunities to formalise its study agreement with East Gippsland Water, as the latest student from the school prepares to commence their internship.
Looking at the long-term, East Gippsland Water’s new Managing Director, Bruce Hammond, says this program is an important tool to help address skill shortages in Australia’s water industry. “There is great potential for this initiative that goes beyond a comparison of engineering practices and assisting interns with their professional development back home.
“By providing students with a taste of the Australian lifestyle we hope that a number will be attracted back here to live and work”, he says. “Indeed, it’s encouraging that we are already seeing the benefits of this effort, with one former ENSIL student having rejoined us on a graduate program, with the prospect of this progressing into permanent employment.”
Central Highlands Water lends a hand to bushfire affected residents
On Tuesday 8 January 2013, the small Victorian towns of Carngham and Snake Valley, near Ballarat, were devastated by a fast moving bushfire.
The fire destroyed eight homes and more than 1000 livestock. Among the homes destroyed was the historic Carngham Station.
Local water corporation, Central Highlands Water, was quick to respond to the local Council’s call to help residents affected by the fire.
Whilst some houses had been destroyed, many other residents had depleted their household tanks whilst saving their homes and farms.
In response to discussions with Council and residents, Central Highlands Water provided fire affected residents with the option to access a free refill of their household tanks.
Central Highlands Water General Manager Customer and Community, Graham Holt, said the Corporation was more than happy to assist the fire affected community.
“Water is vital to maintaining life and many residents in the Carngham area used up much of their reserves fighting the bushfires on 8 January,” Mr Holt said.
“When we heard the situation facing many Carngham residents, Central Highlands Water was pleased to be able to help through the provision of water tank refills.”
Nine fire affected residents took up the offer and were provided up to one tanker load of water to refill their personal tanks.
Central Highlands Water also provided bottles of water at the local community hall to assist residents as a short-term measure following the fire.
Victoria’s New Strategic Framework for Dam Safety Regulation
The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has released Victoria’s first Strategic Framework for Dam Safety Regulation. While dams are fundamental for water security, the framework aims to ensure that they are managed safely to protect the community and the environment.
Victoria has a very good record in dam safety, however the record of catastrophic dam failures internationally highlight the importance of effective regulation. Closer to home, during the Victorian floods of 2010 and 2011 some of the State’s largest dams passed record floods. There were also a number of dam safety incidents reported to DSE, mostly associated with small dams and which fortunately resulted in minimal third party damage.
The strategic framework provides a risk-based approach to the consistent application and continuous improvement of dam safety regulation and management. It sets out Victoria’s dam safety regulatory arrangements and practices, and describes relevant emergency management protocols and roles.
While there are over 455,000 dams throughout Victoria, regulation focuses on a very small subset of these which, because of their size and location, warrant a higher level of surveillance and oversight. These range from large irrigation dams managed by water corporations to retarding basins built to mitigate flash flooding in urban areas.
The framework is available on the DSE Water Webpage at www.water.vic.gov.au along with a number of other documents about dam safety management. For more information on the strategic framework please contact Susan Ryan on 9637 9766 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northcote Cafes & Restaurants Join the "Choose Tap" Revolution
While bottled water has become very trendy in cafés and restaurants – with some charging up to $15 a litre – over 20 restaurants on High Street, Northcote have joined together to promote the benefits of good ol’ fashioned tap water to their patrons and help make Melbourne a more sustainable city.
The cafés and restaurants have partnered with Yarra Valley Water on the water utility’s “Choose Tap” program, making a pledge to offer tap water before bottled water to their patrons, provide drinking water in reusable Choose Tap bottles and have shop front stickers, to help reinforce the Choose Tap message within the local community.
Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Tony Kelly, says the Choose Tap program aims to engage the community on choosing tap water as a positive alternative to bottled water, and as part of a healthy lifestyle.
‘The Choose Tap program supports café and restaurant owners and operators who want to make a difference to the environment, and also helps the wider community reduce their carbon footprint.
‘We also want to engage the community on hydration for good health, and why tap water is a better choice for your health than sugary beverages.’
Ben Sanders, ex- Press Club assistant restaurant manager and restaurant owner of Two by Two in Northcote says the Choose Tap program echoes the sentiments of the restaurant and its customers.
‘It’s quite popular and trendy these days to serve bottled water which is crazy when we have a fantastic product that just comes out of our tap.
‘In the kitchen it’s always about local, seasonal produce, so the natural progression is local water – Melbourne has some of the best drinking water in the world so why not take advantage of that,’ he says.
Keep a close eye on field workers’ safety with new Lone Worker app
An innovative mobile phone app is helping organisations improve the safety of their workers out in the field – with Melbourne water retailer, South East Water, recently launching Lone Worker on iTunes.
South East Water’s General Manager – Corporate and Commercial, Phil Johnson, said one of the biggest challenges in the utility sector is ensuring the safety and security of employees who work alone in often remote areas.
“South East Water has identified this risk and involved people from different areas of the business to come up with a revolutionary app to support our workers in the field,” said Mr Johnson.
“The Lone Worker app is a vital tool for improving safety and minimising risk in the workplace. It gives workers peace of mind to know that there will be a swift response to accidents or sudden illnesses and, if an emergency situation becomes apparent, the emergency services can be alerted immediately.
The Lone Worker app informs colleagues, or an operations contact centre, by SMS and email if a worker is unresponsive. It also sends GPS details of the worker’s last known mobile phone location to ensure they can be located quickly.
The app features two modes: ‘interval’ and ‘motion detection’. In interval mode, a worker can set the time they want to routinely check in and the app sends an alert if that time has lapsed. The innovative motion detection mode uses the accelerometer in the worker’s mobile device to detect a lack of motion over a period of time. This enables colleagues to be alerted in situations where a worker has collapsed, is immobile or unable to respond.
“Many of our treatment plant workers and maintenance crews work in remote, and sometimes dangerous, locations. They can be exposed to snakes, spiders or rough terrain, and fire hydrant repairs are often carried out at night. In these instances, the Lone Worker app helps to keep our workers connected,” said Mr Johnson.
Ben Spedding, a South East Water treatment plant officer has been using the Lone Worker app since its inception. “The app has prompted me to keep safety top of mind and to think about potential risks on the job. It’s also good to know that someone will be alerted if things go wrong,” said Mr Spedding.
“The Lone Worker app can easily be customised to suit the requirements of different work environments. It has applications for workers in building and construction, engineering, onsite inspection, water and sewer, and taxi industries, to name just a few. A number of government organisations are also looking to use the app to improve their workplace safety,” said Mr Johnson.
“These are exciting times in safety and risk management. We are constantly updating the Lone Worker app, based on feedback and practical suggestions from users, and are currently working on an international version of the app as well as a panic alarm function. We are also in the process of integrating the app with our 24/7 operations contact centre and individual business monitoring systems,” concluded Mr Johnson.
The Lone Worker app was developed by iota, the commercial arm of South East Water, which was established to promote innovative ideas and proven technologies to the utility sector.
Lone Worker Lite is free and available from the iTunes app store.
For more information about the Lone Worker app, visit iota.net.au or call 1300 643 711.
Wannon Water ‘Leading the Way’ in Health and Safety
Wannon Water’s leadership in health, safety and wellbeing has captured state-wide attention.
The corporation has won the prestigious ‘Leading the Way in Health, Safety and Wellbeing Award’ at the 2013 Institute of Public Administration Australia (Victoria) Awards for its health and wellbeing program, Work Safe Home Safe.
Wannon Water secured the award, presented at Parliament House in Melbourne on Monday night, from a competitive field of public sector organisations that included Victoria Police and the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Wannon Water Managing Director Grant Green said the award demonstrates the corporation’s commitment to workplace safety and the health and wellbeing of its employees, both at work and at home.
“We are very proud of our Work Safe Home Safe program and recognise that our employees’ health and wellbeing extends beyond those hours they are at work,” Mr Green said.
“In our view a healthy workforce contributes to better business outcomes and this program advocates a healthy and safe approach not just to work but to life.
“Work Safe Home Safe seeks to embed our approach to health and safety as a fundamental part of our culture, and the response from our employees has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Developed with input from Western District Health Services, Work Safe Home Safe includes an annual program launch, monthly health-related themes, promotional activities, employee health checks and support for national health events.
Since the program was launched in 2011 Wannon Water has recorded many health and safety improvements, including:
- A 53% reduction in the frequency of injuries requiring time off work;
- A 1% overall reduction in absenteeism;
- Numerous employees giving up smoking through a Wannon Water-sponsored program;
- Strong employee participation in awareness sessions, exercise activities and health checks, with seven employees referred to their GP for skin spots of concern.
“Our employees, particularly the Occupational Health & Safety Team, should be proud of what we’ve achieved as an organisation through this program,” Mr Green said.
“Wannon Water’s challenge now is to build on this success to further strengthen the health and wellbeing of all employees into the future.”
The award also recognised Wannon Water’s commitment to sharing its experiences with other water corporations and industry bodies to help them achieve similar health outcomes.
Biosolids reuse reporting methodology – South East Water Predilection
South East Water is a provider of water, sewerage, trade waste and water saving services for residents and businesses in an area ranging from the South East of Melbourne to South Gippsland. South East Water is one of the three retail water authorities operating in Melbourne. South East Water operates eight licensed Water Recycling Plans (WRPs) which are distributed throughout mainly rural locations in the Mornington Peninsula and the Westernport catchments. Of these eight, five are activated sludge plants (Mt Martha, Somers, Boneo, Pakenham and Blind Bight) and three are lagoon plants (Koo Wee Rup, Lang Lang and Longwarry). Biosolids across all these plants are currently destined to agricultural (fodder production and cattle grazing) and non-agricultural (landscaping) uses on South East Water owned land situated in close vicinity of WRPs.
South East Water along with all water businesses in Victoria is required to report biosolids produced, stored and reused data to the Essential Services Commission (ESC) on an annual basis. Historically, in the absence of any direction from the ESC on the definitions of biosolids produced, stored and reused, South East Water has been reporting (a) biosolids produced from an estimate of sludge produced at the earliest part of the treatment process (before sludge treatment), (b) biosolids stored as all the sludge material stored within our treatment processes (e.g. drying pans and lagoons), and (c) biosolids reused on the basis of quantifying the amount used beneficially in agriculture and non-agricultural situations.
The basic steps involved in the production of biosolids are (i) collection of raw sewage, (ii) treatment of sewage to the desired level, (iii) separation of waste sludge, (iv) drying of sludge, (v) treatment and storage of biosolids, and (vi) beneficial use of biosolids.
Sludge is operationally different to biosolids. Sludge is a watery product prior to leaving the (i) drying pans in the case of Mt Martha, Pakenham, Somers and Blind Bight WRPs, and (ii) solar driers in the case of Boneo WRP. On the other hand biosolids is stabilised and treated sludge product ready for beneficial end use – T3C2 grade product for non-agricultural use at Mt Martha WRP (Figure 1) and T1C2 grade product for agricultural use at the other 7 WRPs (Figure 2, Boneo WRP). In other words ‘sludge’ will be called ‘biosolids’ only when it has passed all the necessary treatment steps to enable it to be reused for the chosen beneficial use purpose. In this context, South East Water definition of biosolids aligns with the EPA definition (EPA Victoria 2004), as well as the recently modified definition of biosolids by the ESC (Essential Services Commission 2012).
Issues with current reporting methodology
South East Water wants to separate ‘sludge produced’ from ‘biosolids produced’. This is because sludge is not “conserved” through the treatment process – it can be biodegraded, and it is very difficult to quantify in both our drying pans and in the lagoons. Hence, the current reporting methodology is complex, inaccurate and does not actually provide useful information on the volume of accumulated biosolids we have. By reporting the total amount of sludge stored it suggests that there is lots of sludge available for reuse, whereas in fact most of it is still moving through the treatment process (this takes 3–10 years) and can’t be reused. Furthermore, the auditor’s eyes usually glaze over and give up trying to comment when presented with the current reporting methodology.
ESC’s current definitions
The ESC recently (Essential Services Commission 2012) modified definition of ‘biosolids’ to align with the EPA definition and proposed the following definitions for biosolids mass produced, mass reused and mass stored.
Mass produced means the mass dry weight of biosolids produced by the licensee’s sewage treatment plants.
Mass reused means the mass dry weight of biosolids reuse undertaken in accordance with EPA published guidelines or exempted from EPA licensing on the basis of being recognised as a legitimate reuse activity.
Mass stored means the mass dry weight of biosolids stored by, or on behalf of, the licensee.
The definition of biosolids mass produced seems to be more contentious than the definitions for biosolids mass reused and biosolids mass stored from South East Water point of view. The ESC reporting protocol only counts biosolids as being produced when they are removed from the treatment process for stockpiling or for beneficial end use. It is unclear at what treatment process step that the biosolids are to be considered to be as produced from ESC’s point of view. This is the conundrum for the Water Industry.
South East Water predilection
For South East Water, biosolids produced means mass dry weight of stabilised biosolids produced annually that meets our product quality limits for defined end use for beneficial utilisation of nutrient and soil conditioning properties in biosolids – T1C2 biosolids for agriculture use (fodder production and cattle grazing) and T3C2 biosolids for landscaping. Seven out of eight WRPs produce T1C2 biosolids. Only Mt Martha WRP produces T3C2 biosolids. The Permanent Landscape Mound Area (Figure 3) is an EPA approved beneficial end use destination for Mt Martha T3C2 biosolids at the moment. Therefore, biosolids produced data in any reporting year will be based on quantifying biosolids in stockpiles (e.g. 3 year storage recognised treatment method to achieve T1 grade) coming on line for beneficial use by end of June in our WRPs, except Mt Martha WRP. In case of Mt Martha WRP, the mass dry weight of stabilised T3C2 biosolids transferred to the Permanent Landscape Mound Area is considered as both “biosolids produced” and ‘biosolids reused”.
In our lagoon based WRPs (Longwarry, Koo Wee Rup and Lang Lang), biosolids production commences only after desludging and a further 3 year stockpiling to achieve T1 grade. It is therefore possible to not produce any biosolids in a given year in these lagoon plants. No desludging activities were carried out recently in these lagoon plants.
This above definition of biosolids produced suits South East Water so long as the product quality limits for reuse are defined (T1C2 biosolids for agriculture use and T3C2 biosolids for landscaping) and adhered to. Our definition is not necessarily applicable across the other water businesses as the 3 year storage is just one of the recognised treatment methods to achieve T1 grade, and biosolids can be from T1-T3 as per the EPA Victorian biosolids guideline definition.
Biosolids reused means mass dry weight of biosolids used annually for the defined beneficial enduses – T1C2 biosolids for agriculture use (fodder production and cattle grazing) and T3C2 biosolids for landscaping. Therefore, biosolids reused data in any reporting year will be based on quantifying the amounts supplied for reuse. In the case of Mt Martha WRP, the mass dry weight of stabilised T3C2 biosolids transferred to the Permanent Landscape Mound Area (Figure 3) is considered as ‘biosolids reused”.
Biosolids stored means mass dry weight of biosolids stored that has passed the defined treatment steps (e.g. 3 year storage recognised treatment method to achieve T1 grade) and ready for defined end use (T1C2 biosolids for agriculture use and T3C2 biosolids for landscaping). South East Water continues to use T1C2 grade biosolids in agriculture sector in the foreseeable future. If by any chance South East Water chooses to use a lower grade biosolids (T2C2 or T3C2) in agriculture sector, then biosolids stored definition will be revised to incorporate biosolids stored that has passed the defined treatment step to achieve the lower grades.
Table 1 provides Pakenham WRP stockpiles details and boisolids inventory during 2011/12 as an example.
This modified methodology will make things much simpler and more transparent to an auditor, as well as being a more useful and providing accurate picture of how much accumulated biosolids we have in any given year. It also means that the quantity of biosolids in storage (Biosolids stored data) we report for 2011/12 will be much less than we reported in 2010/11 due to this reclassification, not because we have used lots.
We will continue to report biosolids as tonnes of dry solids and correct to take out clay where appropriate.
EPA Victoria (2004) Guidelines for Environmental Management. Biosolids Land Application, Melbourne, Environment Protection Authority Victoria.
Essential Services Commission 2012, Review of Water Performance Report Indicators – Final Report, August 2012
- Minister for Water Peter Walsh has announced the appointment of Mike Waller as the first permanent Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Living Victoria (OLV). We would like to congratulate Mike on his appointment.
- We would like to congratulate Graham Hawke, Southern Rural Water, who has recently been appointed to the role of Deputy Director (Climate and Water) at the Bureau of Meteorology. Graham will be based in Melbourne and will commence duties after Easter on Tuesday 2 April 2013. We would like to thank Graham for his distinguished service to the Victorian water industry and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.
- We would like to acknowledge and congratulate Sarah Johnston from East Gippsland Water for being the worthy recipient of this year’s VicWater Leadership Award. Sarah was formally presented with the Award at the IWA/AWA Conference dinner on 28 February. Preparations are now underway to organise her work experience to Thames Water later this year. The Board noted that the nominees put forward were all of a very high standard which made the selection process both difficult and exciting. The Board agreed that Sarah stood out in terms of demonstrating both leadership potential and a commitment to contributing to the wider industry.
- The Board would like to congratulate Peter Wilson, Chair of Yarra Valley Water who was recently appointed as Chair of the Vision Super Board. Peter is the VicWater representative on the Vision Super Board.
Upcoming VicWater Events
2013 Sustainability Conference
Date: Thursday 2 May 2013
Venue: Citadines on Bourke Melbourne, 131 – 135 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD
2013 Finance Conference
Date: Thursday 30 and Friday 31 May 2012
Venue: Wyndham Resort Torquay, 100 The Esplanade, Torquay
2013 Annual Conference
Date: Thursday 12 and Friday 13 September 2013
Venue: The Langham Melbourne, One Southgate Avenue, Southbank