Orica's Kooragang Island plant has gone from the Lower Hunter's largest consumer of potable water to one of the region's biggest users of recycled water in under a decade.
The plant is the company's most water-intensive site, consuming water for use in cooling towers, steam generation, chemical production, equipment cleaning and employee amenities.
The company made the switch to recycled water for its cooling towers and the demineralisation process in 2014.
Recycled water has also been used in the nitrates cooling towers from 2017.
The plant presently uses 3.4 billion litres of water a year, of which 80-90 per cent is recycled.
"We used to be the number one consumer of potable water in the Hunter Region and now we have dropped to below 20 per cent," Orica Kooragang Island general manager Paul Hastie said.
The potable water savings are enough to supply water to 12,000 homes annually.
Orica receives its recycled water through an 8 kilometre dedicated pipeline from a recycled water plant at Mayfield, also known as the Advanced Water Treatment Plant.
The Kooragang Recycled Water Scheme delivers 12 million litres of treated effluent a day from Shortland Wastewater Treatment Works. The water is treated to a standard suitable for industrial use.
"Hunter Water has a perfectly good stream of water coming out of their effluent treatment plants. All they have to do is purify it to the right standard. It will go to waste if they don't use it," Mr Hastie said.
Hunter Water's non-residential customers make up only five per cent of the utility's total customer base but consume almost a third of the region's total potable water supply.
It is made up of 45 customers that consume 30 million litres of water a year.
A spokeswoman said Hunter Water had been working with customers to identify more than 282 million litres of water savings this financial year - the equivalent to the yearly water usage of 1500 households in the region.
At the same time it is estimated the customers have saved $700,000.
The project has involved installing real-time monitoring devices on large customers' water meters to better understand water demand patterns.
"This is vital for managing the network and forecasting when future upgrades may be required. In turn, our large customers will be able to identify ways to reduce their water consumption, find operational improvements, save on costs and also benefit the environment by reducing waste," the spokeswoman said.
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