This week marks the first birthday of the Parkes new water treatment facilities, and World Water Day is the perfect day to celebrate their first year of operation.
World Water Day is held annually on 22 March to highlight the importance of the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The United Nations recognise access to clean and safe water as a basic human right; it's not only vital in order to quench thirst and maintain health, water is also necessary for supporting economic development.
Parkes Shire Council's Director of Infrastructure Mr Andrew Francis, said that sustainable management of water resources has never been more important to Parkes. "Central West New South Wales has just endured the hottest summer on record, and the ongoing drought is placing additional stress on our water supply, with Lake Endeavour Dam levels now below 30% capacity. So, the new water and sewage treatment plants give Parkes a lot to celebrate."
"The new water treatment plant has twice the capacity of the old facility, meaning it can treat enough water to service the town during high peak demand," Mr Francis explained, "but the real cause for celebration is the plant's enhanced sustainability features - the new system is a zero-discharge facility, meaning none of the water is lost to backwash. The new treatment processes have improved the quality of Parkes drinking water and reduced the amount of chemical required for treatment, meaning it's not only greener, it is cleaner too."
"The new Dissolved Air Floatation and Filtration (DAFF) system takes more of the suspended particles from the raw water, making our drinking water cleaner than ever before. The amount of chlorine used to treat the water has been reduced by one third, which reduces the cost of water treatment," Mr Francis said.
"Although the treatment plant is using less chlorine than ever, the cleaner water means that it may be more readily detected at the household taps," Mr Francis continued, "with less organic components in the water, cleaner pipes due to recent scouring, and more consistent distribution throughout the network, more of the chlorine is retained. In this case a perceptible presence of chlorine is actually a sign of improved water quality."
"However, there are other factors that can affect the taste and quality of drinking water," Mr Francis explained. "Parkes sources raw water from the Lachlan River, the Lake Endeavour Dam, as well as the Lachlan Borefields, and our potable water is mixed from a blend of these, which depends on availability and quality. At the moment we are drawing a lot of our water from bores, and the naturally occurring iron and manganese can also influence the water's flavour."
The new Sewage Treatment Plant should also be included in the celebrations: the new Intermittent Decant Extended Aeration (IDEA) treatment process is more efficient in nutrient removal and generates less odours. An additional benefit is that it produces high-quality effluent, which will be further treated at the Advanced Water Recycling Facility. The new Recycled Water Scheme will ultimately provide a climate resilient water supply to irrigate selected sporting fields around Parkes, which in turn eases the demand on Parkes' potable (drinking) water network.
The new water and wastewater treatment plants have made quite a splash outside Parkes in their first year of operation, having been recognised with several prestigious awards, such as a 2018 Engineering Excellence Award and a NSW LGA Excellence in the Environment Awards, but their real value is the legacy they leave for the Parkes community.
"Parkes Shire Council has invested in our water and wastewater network and upskilling our operations staff to ensuring our community enjoys reliable access to clean and safe water, even during significant drought periods." Mr Francis said. "In celebration of our new infrastructure's successful first year, and to commemorate World Water Day, we should all raise a glass of our finest quality tap water."