Managed Aquifer Recharge and Stormwater Use Options (MARSUO)
The Goyder Institute’s Managed Aquifer Recharge and Stormwater Use Options (MARSUO) project has been the first to lay down a serious and rigorous body of evidence in support of harvesting stormwater to augment urban water supplies. It has transparently examined the social, technical, economic and environmental facets.
In Adelaide there is strong public support for stormwater for drinking and non-potable supplies and it has been in use by innovative local councils for 20 years, for public open space irrigation. Stormwater presents opportunities for securing city water supplies at much lower unit costs than desalination; indeed, had this project been completed siz years ealier, several states might have significantly reduced major capital outlays.
Owing to the mainly impervious nature of urban catchments, stormwater yields are more reliable and less drought-prone than rural runoff. The challenge of storage can be met by using surface reservoirs or aquifers, sometimes in combination. Urban stormwater quality is similar to that from open catchments that source drinking water for a number of Australian cities. The treatment and distribution technologies required are little different than those for conventional sources.
Despite the intuitive appeal of stormwater harvesting, the science and technology are not trivial, especially when aquifers are involved. This effectively places lower limits on project size to achieve economic sustainability. As is the case with any field of endeavour, a body of empirical practice rules has to be generated to ensure practical success. This project has made a good start in that direction.
The political realities of creating innovative systems have to be addressed too, as agencies and water businesses weigh up the threats and opportunities which are opened up, and the different relationships that have to be managed. Regulators need to create an environment which encourages innovation and fosters a market driven climate for all the players.
For many potential stormwater/MAR projects around Australia, there is insufficient value ascribed to environmental benefits, so more attention is needed in that respect.
Although the evidence from this project suggests that stormwater harvesting can be competitive in overall cost terms, every project is unique and a rational evaluation of costs and benefits is needed.
The MARSUO research project was a 3.5 year project that ran from November 2010 to May 2014. It evaluated in depth the quality of stormwater generated in the City of Salisbury, the treatment requirements and risk management measures necessary to assure safe water quality for public open space irrigation, third pipe reticulation to homes and for potential drinking water supplies. It also evaluated and compared the economics of these options for a case study at Parafield in Salisbury, South Australia, accounting for basic assessments of environmental and social impacts. Focus groups and two web surveys were conducted to evaluate public acceptance of the different potential uses of stormwater. An evaluation of biofilm in pipes of different materials was undertaken for mains water and stormwater to assess the likelihood of water quality changes and potential impacts on infrastructure maintenance. Studies of satellite sites in Australia and overseas were undertaken for comparative purposes, analysing stormwater quality and treatment requirements for drinking water use in relation to the Salisbury results.
These research studies were initiated in order to support the South Australian Government water security plan Water For Good that was announced in 2009. One of the key aims was for up to 60GL/yr of stormwater to be harvested in Adelaide, and up to 15 GL/yr in regional South Australia, by 2050. Additionally, these studies also became an integral input into the National Water Reform Initiative to assess the suitability of all forms of water for water supply, and to determine the economic benefits and public acceptance of diversification of urban water supplies. The overall premise was to identify and increase the range of efficient water supply sources whilst also reducing the environmental impacts of stormwater as Australian cities grow and urban areas consolidate. All of the approaches and principles that were applied were compliant with the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling in the National Water Quality Management Strategy. Water quality was monitored at a number of sites to inform a risk assessment which then led to the development of a risk management plan.
From a national perspective the MARSUO project demonstrates the utility of stormwater for a wide range of future uses.
Jurisdictions that have previously ruled out potential sources of water for cities without consideration of their merits should be encouraged to reconsider so as to fully implement the principles of the National Water Reform Agenda agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments.
Capitalising on the water supply opportunities for stormwater use options may require a more unified form of water governance than exists in most States, which recognises the integration of existing stormwater drainage and mains distribution infrastructure with different ownership and different established financial arrangements.
Water sensitive urban design, as encouraged in many jurisdictions, when implemented will improve the quality, increase the harvestable volume of stormwater and thereby advance opportunities for drinking water supplies. Urban designers should be free to consider the full palette of stormwater use options.
The MARSUO project shows that the technical and water quality/safety aspects are manageable using established processes under the National Water Quality Management Strategy, and the next step is to build processes that enable timely financial integration so that the highest valued projects are supported
Chris Wright holds significant experience in public sector senior leadership, having led policy, scientific and operational business units over the last twelve years in both State and Commonwealth government agencies. Chris has excellent experiences in leading policy and strategy formulation. He is skilled in building and maintaining networks across the public and private sectors to facilitate business delivery; leading and negotiating with others to achieve outcomes; and in bridging the science-policy gap, drawing on earlier roles in geospatial information systems (GIS) consulting. Chris’s formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Social Science, a Masters of Spatial Information Science and graduation from the AICD Company Directors course in 2019.
Dr Ilka Wallis is a hydrogeologist with areas of expertise in quantitative hydrogeology and geochemistry. Ilka focuses on the development of reactive geochemical transport models which integrate fundamental processes that are normally studied in isolation (hydrogeological, mineralogical, geochemical and biochemical).
Ilka is also an Adjunct Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Manitoba, Canada since 2017.
Peter Goonan is the Principal Aquatic Biologist in the Environmental Science Branch of the EPA. He has over 30 years’ experience monitoring the condition of aquatic ecosystems in SA and assessing the environmental effects caused by discharges, deposits and contaminants entering inland and coastal waters. He specialises in aquatic invertebrate identification and their responses to contaminants and water quality stressors. He also provides expert professional advice relating to water quality risks, regulation, policy, and strategic directions, and represents the EPA as an expert witness in court.
Dr Paul Monis is a technical expert within SA Water’s Business Services group, which provides scientific expertise to support the delivery of water and wastewater services to SA Water’s customers. He has specialist expertise in the areas of biotechnology and microbiology, with almost 20 years’ experience applying DNA-based and other technologies to address water quality challenges posed by microorganisms, especially enteric pathogens. Dr Monis also holds title of Adjunct Associate Professor at Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and UniSA.
Jennie’s role in the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) allows her to foster and strengthen opportunities for researchers to better connect with government to enable evidence-based decision making. Jennie has extensive experience working in both universities and government, allowing her to bridge the divide between the two sectors. She is focused on connecting natural resource researchers with natural resource decision makers, and facilitating fit for purpose partnerships.
Dr Tanya Doody is a Principal Research Scientist working on high impact spatial eco-hydrological projects within CSIRO’s Land and Water Business Unit. Dr Doody leads the Managing Water Ecosystems Group, based in Adelaide, Albury and Canberra and has significant experience in quantifying the water requirements of vegetation and at times, their impact on water resources. This involves ecophysiological field-based research to underpin remote sensing tools to scale regionally to improve our understanding of the effect of flood regimes on the health of water-dependent ecosystems on the Murray-Darling Basin floodplains. Additional research includes investigating the ecological response of vegetation to water availability and environmental water to inform integrated basin water planning and management.
Professor Lin Crase is Professor of Economics and Dean of Programs (Accounting & Finance) at UniSA. He joined UniSA in February 2016 as Head of School of Commerce. Prior to commencing at UniSA, Lin was Professor and Director of the Centre for Water Policy and Management at La Trobe University.
Lin’s research has focused on applied economics in the context of water. He has analysed water markets and the property rights that attend them, water pricing and numerous applications of water policy. Whilst his expertise includes the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia, he has also worked on projects in south Asia, Japan and Europe. Lin has published over 100 journal articles, numerous book chapters, four books and a range of other papers and opinion pieces.
Justin has broad research interests in limnology and water treatment with a primary focus on coupling between hydrodynamics, biology and water quality contaminants such as cyanobacteria and pathogens. He is a founding member of the management committee of the IWA Specialist Group on Lake and Reservoir Management and member of the Steering Committee for the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network.
Justin has a PhD and a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours from the University of Adelaide.
Daniel Flaherty is the Accountant for the Goyder Institute for Water Research.
Daniel has extensive experience in higher education having worked in senior financial management roles at the University of South Australia, Flinders University and the University of Adelaide over the past 26 years. Daniel has also been a Board Director on a number of university related entities. Prior to that, Daniel has worked in a range of agencies in the Commonwealth and State Governments.
Daniel is a Fellow of CPA Australia and has a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Adelaide.
Alec Rolston joined the Institute in 2021 as Research Program Manager of the Goyder Institute’s research projects in the Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin program. He has extensive experience in integrated water resource management, integrated catchment management, drinking water source protection and wetland ecology, conservation and management across Europe and Australia.
Alec holds a PhD from the National University of Ireland Maynooth and has worked with An Fóram Uisce|The Water Forum and the Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland as well as the MANTEL Innovative Training Network across Europe.
Alec spent his early career in Adelaide working with Flinders University through the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLAMM) Ecology Research Cluster and within the Department for Environment and Water.
Daniel Pierce has managed research projects at the Goyder Institute for Water Research since November 2017 under both the second and third terms of the Institute.
Daniel brings experience in project management and knowledge transfer and application from 4 years working as a Senior Hydrogeologist in the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) in South Australia and from 13 years of private sector work in environmental management, science and engineering in Australia and the South Pacific. His work with DEW has included providing technical advice to the development and revision of Water Allocation Plans around South Australia in collaboration with researchers and policy makers, and managing a team of groundwater modellers and hydrogeologists involved in an assortment of water resource management issues.
Daniel has a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons, Environmental) and a Bachelor of Science (Geography) from the University of Western Australia.
Professor Lombi’s main contributions to environmental research cover various aspects of contaminant risk assessment, biogeochemistry, ecotoxicology and waste management. Furthermore, the methodological development he has pursued in his research has provided the basis for collaborative efforts in a variety of research areas ranging from soil fertility and plant physiology to human health issues related to contaminant uptake via occupational exposure and diet. In the last few years he has been increasingly focusing on the transformation and toxicity of manufactured nanomaterials in the environment.
Dr Carmel Pollino is a Research Director for Land and Water at CSIRO. She has 20 years of experience working on water issues in Australia and throughout Asia. Carmel has degrees in science and environmental law and works across the science and policy interface. Significant areas of research in Environmental Flows, Hydrology, Ecology and Integrated River Basin Planning. Carmel is the lead and also a contributor to global working groups on water and has published widely in this domain.
Professor Bronwyn Gillanders is interim Head of School of Biological Sciences at the University of Adelaide. Prof Gillanders completed her BSc at the University of Canterbury, MSc at the University of Otago and her PhD at the University of Sydney. She has a research background in environmental science focused predominantly on freshwater and marine ecology.
Her research interests include integrated marine management; coastal carbon opportunities; multiple use activities and cumulative impact assessment; biology, ecology and fisheries of cephalopods; stocking and provenance of fish; plastics in the marine environment including in seafood; use of fish bones (and other calcified structures) for assessing ecological and environmental change. She has trained and mentored ~70 Honours and Higher Degree Research students and shaped the future of 1000s of students through her undergraduate teaching. She is passionate about encouraging capable women to enter and remain in science careers.
Dan Jordan is the Director, Water Security, Policy and Planning, Department for Environment and Water (DEW). Dan is also the Basin Officials Committee Alternate Member for South Australia.
Professor Okke Batelaan is a graduate of the Free University of Amsterdam, Netherlands (MSc – Hydrogeology) and of the Free University Brussels, Belgium (PhD – Engineering). He worked for more than 20 years at the Free University Brussels and also led the hydrogeology group at the KU Leuven, Belgium since 2006. He was chairman of the Interuniversity Programme in Water Resources Engineering.
Since 2012 Okke Batelaan is Strategic Professor in Hydrogeology and currently Dean of the School of the Environment, Flinders University. Okke has broad experience in teaching groundwater hydrology, groundwater modelling, GIS and remote sensing for hydrological applications. He was supervisor of more than 140 MSc and 25 PhD students. He has extensive research experience and a publication record in shallow groundwater hydrology and modeling, recharge-discharge estimation and modeling, urban hydrology and distributed modelling, ecohydrology and impacts of land use and climate change on groundwater systems. He coordinated and participated in a large number of projects in Europe, Africa, South America, Asia and Australia. He is editor-in-chief of Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies and of MDPI-Hydrology.