US trip unearths best practice in wastewater recycling

Australian Maritime University

May 16 2013

An Australian Maritime College PhD candidate has witnessed first-hand the potential of efficient wastewater recycling.

Thanks to a scholarship from Water Quality Research Australia (WQRA), Simon Perraton, of the National Centre for Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability, recently travelled to the site of the world’s largest wastewater purification system facility for indirect potable reuse in Orange County, Southern California.

WQRA PhD Scholarships are awarded to students with exceptional potential who are undertaking a higher degree by research. The not-for-profit company provides students with the opportunity to enhance their research skills and professional development in an effort to make them a valuable asset to the water industry.Simon is undertaking a multi-disciplinary project that involves law, science and economics.  Entitled “Cross jurisdictional barriers to the efficient and effective recycling and reuse of wastewater not currently being considered in Australian law reform”, his research aims to investigate the laws that govern the water cycle in Australia and to determine if regulation and policies are creating a barrier to the uptake of wastewater recycling schemes.

It looks at a range of case studies in Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and California.

“Around the world, when wastewater cannot be reused or recycled, it is treated and disposed to either lakes, rivers or the ocean. While Australia’s states and territories have set targets to increase wastewater recycling, my project is looking at the barriers which may slow progress towards increasing recycling and decreasing wastewater discharge,’’ Simon said.“Despite Southern California’s exponential population growth, research has shown that pollutant inputs to coastal waters have actually decreased. It’s an amazing achievement.

“Wastewater reuse, water conservation and pollution management practices have allowed toxic contaminants and metals to be significantly reduced when compared to 1970s emissions samples.”

Simon has both a science and a law degree, and has practiced as a solicitor in environmental law.

“Having this broad background helps me to understand both the impacts of disposed wastewater on the marine environment as well as the laws and regulations governing water management in Australia,’’ he said.

He has PhD supervisors from both AMC and the University of Tasmania’s Faculty of Law, and his project is also supported by an economics supervisor at the University of New England Business School and a science supervisor at the University of Newcastle.

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