Getting more value out of our water: circular approaches to water management




How could a circular economy conference in the driest state, and on the driest continent, not consider water?

Most people think of waste and materials when they think of a circular economy, but the water cycle is a key area for generating value: not only from the water itself, but also resources such as organic matter, phosphorus, nitrogen, heavy metals and thermal energy, that can particularly be found in waste water.

In greater Adelaide over the past 30 years a transition from linear 'collect>treat>dispose' water management towards a more whole of water cycle model has been building over time, involving participants from across the public and private sectors. This transition has yielded benefits for regional communities and their economies, regional ecosystems, and the State Treasury.  

Kathryn Bellette will share how greater Adelaide has moved from depleted groundwater reserves and coastal pollution resulting from wastewater treatment plant discharge outfall in the 1980s, to a sophisticated system of well managed catchments, water sensitive urban design, aquifer storage and recovery. This 30-year journey has opened up new areas for agriculture and industry, stemmed seagrass loss in the Adelaide coastal waters and reduced flood risk.

Matthew Mulliss will explore the journey to transform Queensland Urban Utilities’ sewage treatment plants into resource recovery centres. Matthew will touch on opportunities and challenges of this transition, and case studies from one of Australia’s largest water distributor-retailers’ resource recovery portfolio, including thermal hydrolysis, anaerobic digestion, cogeneration, Pongamia energy crop trial, and its award winning Innovation Centre.

Kate Dryden will share examples of the circular economy in action in the water cycle drawing upon Veolia’s extensive projects in Australia and around the world. She will discuss the role of regulation in their successful implementation and the UN's sustainable development goals, noting that successful water management plays a pivotal role in beneficial health, education and environmental outcomes.

Session moderated by Tim Grant.

Before heading to the break, we will also introduce you to Dr Michael Taylor, a mycologist, entrepreneur and academic left the university to grow exotic mushrooms in Willunga. He’s challenging an Australian market dominated by mushrooms imported from Asia, and has big plans for how mushrooms - an organism more closely related to humans than to plants - can be grown off paper waste, cardboard and agricultural crop residues to produce high value products.