Drinking purified recycled water could be commonplace in the Hunter in 25 years, according to a plan to secure the region's water supply.
The Draft Lower Hunter Water Plan, which will be on exhibition for the next six weeks, emphasises the role of water recycling and conservation to achieve water security in the region.
Surveys show most people are comfortable with using recycled water for non-drinking purposes, however, there remains some hesitancy around drinking recycled water.
That is despite the fact that drinking recycled water, which has been purified to a potable water standard, is common in several parts of the world including Australia.
More than three quarters of 50 respondents to an online survey between April and October 2020 said they were either open to Hunter Water considering introducing purified recycled water or thought Hunter Water should definitely consider the option.
According to the draft plan a new purified recycled water for drinking scheme for the Hunter would involve sending highly treated recycled water to Grahamstown Dam for storage and further treatment at the existing Grahamstown Water Treatment Plant.
"Purified recycled water provides a reliable, rainfall-independent source of water and is often lower in cost and more energy efficient than other rainfall-independent options like desalination," the report says.
"It also decreases the amount of water take from the environment by re-using wastewater and reduces nutrient discharges to waterways. The Lower Hunter community has indicated an openness to considering purified recycled water for drinking as a future water supply option."
It started recharging recycled water to Perth's deep aquifers in 2017.
The first stage has the capacity to recharge the Leederville and Yarragadee aquifers with up to 14 gigalitres of purified water per year.
The development of stage 2 of the scheme involves the construction of a second advanced water treatment plant as well as construction of new recharge bores and an associated recharge pipeline.
It is expected the second stage will double the scheme's capacity to 28 gigalitres per year
It is estimated groundwater replenishment could supply 10 per cent of Perth's drinking water by 2060
Hunter Water will conduct further community engagement about the introduction of the purified recycled water as part of the Lower Hunter Water Plan's development.
The draft plan will remain on exhibition until on Sunday 19 September 2021.
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