A History of Wastewater Irrigation in Melbourne, Australia

Fiona Barker, Robert Faggian, Andrew J. Hamilton


ABSTRACT: Reclamation of wastewater for irrigation has had an important role to play in Melbourne’s struggle to manage water resources as effectively as possible. Rapid growth within the first few years of the founding of the city led to a sanitary crisis, which provided the impetus for the construction of a large sewerage system. Interest in using the effluent from sewage treatment plants for irrigation gained attention in the late 1970s, but despite some activity in the early 1980s, it was not until 2005 that large-scale wastewater irrigation schemes became a reality. Successful to a degree, there have also been problems, and the future viability of one large irrigation scheme for commercial vegetable production is threatened by high salt concentrations in the treated wastewater. Greywater irrigation at the household level has also become commonplace in Melbourne over the last decade, but it is difficult to regulate and the health risks urgently need to be quantified. More recently, several third-pipe schemes, where treated wastewater is reticulated to households, have been commissioned with plans for many more, and treated stormwater is growing in popularity, particularly for irrigation of public open spaces.


Keywords: Graywater;Greywater; Reclaimed water; Recycled water; Reuse; Vegetable