Over recent years East Gippsland Water has set out to minimise energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, with a commitment to reduce the environmental impacts of operations, including through:
- an ongoing program to replace old and worn pumps with new, energy-efficient models
- ongoing investigation of innovative ways to minimise energy consumption
- an ongoing program to reduce infiltration onto the sewer network, which reduces the energy required to pump extra water
- active engagement and collaboration with other water corporations, industry bodies, community networks and external agencies to pursue best practice in energy management and greenhouse gas reduction
- submission of East Gippsland Water’s carbon emissions pledge to reduce baseline emissions by 21% by 1 July 2025 (based on average emissions from 2011/12 to 2015/16).
Initiatives implemented, or furthered, during 2017/18 included:
- installing an additional 56kW of solar panels on several pump station and depot buildings
- developing a price submission strategy to deliver the corporation’s emissions reduction program from 2018/19 to 2022/23
- installing variable speed drives at a number of larger pump stations to optimise pumping efficiency
- reducing infiltration into the sewer network by identifying and rectifying over a dozen issues in the Paynesville, Lakes Entrance and Eastwood areas
- desludging Newmerella and Lakes Entrance wastewater treatment Plant lagoons – improving the efficiency of the treatment process and reducing methane emission levels.
Also, the corporation continued to work in partnership with the East Gippsland Food Cluster and East Gippsland Shire Council on an innovative project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by cutting the amount of food waste sent to landfill and converting this into energy. Sustainability Victoria announced a $210,000 grant from its Waste to Energy Infrastructure Fund to support the project – specifically to help facilitate a necessary upgrade to infrastructure at Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment Plant. East Gippsland Water is providing the remainder of the funding for the $840,000 initiative.
Net greenhouse gas emissions exceeded the 2017/18 target of 8,190 tonnes of CO2-e equivalent (t CO2–e) set in 2012 by 2%, with 8,348 t CO2–e recorded for the year. This was due largely to a change in the way the direct emissions figure is now reported, with a new direct emission source – Nitrous Oxide – included since 2016/17.
East Gippsland Water continually reviews its office-based activities and carries out improvements geared at cutting energy consumption.
Notable measures at its head office in Bairnsdale have included installing energy efficient light fittings, solar water heating, reflective film on windows, energy efficient computer monitors and insulation in the roofspace. In addition, there is an increasing reliance on fuel-efficient vehicles, in the Corporation’s car fleet. Late in 2014 a 15KW solar panel system was installed on the office’s roof to supplement the use of mains electricity.
A visual bonus for anyone visiting the office is the drought-tolerant garden at the front. This is a practical example of how water efficiency best practice can be incorporated into a household or small-scale commercial garden. The water for the garden and feature fountain is provided from a 10,000 litre rainwater tank which is fed from the roof of the building.
Solar hot water systems have been installed at the Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance depots, with a number of depots also now benefiting from the use of motion sensors to control the use of lights in toilets.
East Gippsland Water is in the midst of a program to upgrade some 100 ageing sewer pump stations across the region, to maximise their efficiency and reliability.
Areas including Mallacoota, Paynesville, Orbost, Lakes Entrance, Kalimna, Eagle Point, Wy Yung, Eastwood and Lindenow have been targeted, with old and worn pumps, motors and drives replaced by considerably more efficient models. State-of-the-art computer software and hardware is also being installed to monitor efficiency.
It is estimated that this initiative, together with the installation of variable speed drive motors at Glenaladale Pumping Station, will save East Gippsland Water and the environment approximately 620 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
East Gippsland Water became one of the first water corporations in Victoria to use a solar-powered water circulator to help with the treatment of wastewater.
The ‘SolarBee’ is being employed at the Lakes Entrance Wastewater Treatment Plant to recycle effluent. Bearing a striking resemblance to a space landing craft, this device is a hi-tech alternative to ageing, electrically operated aerators which are in the process of being phased out by the Corporation.
Utilising highly efficient brushless motors and the latest in solar technology, the ‘SolarBee’ requires no external power, which means it can claim zero energy costs unlike its electrical counterpart. It is estimated that just one of these devices could reduce East Gippsland Water’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 100 tonnes a year.
Process water efficiencies
Water treatment processes have traditionally resulted in water loss due to the filtering of contaminants and East Gippsland Water has been keen to address this.
Improvements have been incorporated into the Mallacoota Water Treatment Plant which enable water used in the operation of the facility (washwater) to be captured, cleaned and reused again and again. It has been estimated that as much as 20 million litres of water per year (roughly equivalent to 20 Olympic size swimming pools), which would previously have disappeared into the sewer, will be saved by recycling in this way.
This has further benefits as it reduces the volume of water required to be pumped from rivers and ground water bores, and cuts the amount of energy required to pump water and wastewater.
This initiative is proving such a success that it is also being implemented at the water treatment plants in Omeo and Orbost.
Tree planting efforts
The Corporation manages nearly 340 hectares of land, where it plants and sustains native vegetation in natural forest areas, as well as on buffer strips and marginal terrain.