New housing developments can benefit from the uptake of decentralised water supply options.

New housing developments can benefit from the uptake of decentralised water supply options.

Sustainability assessment framework of alternative urban water and sewerage services

CSIRO scientists have developed an innovative sustainability assessment framework that evaluates the different options for providing water and sewerage services to urban greenfield developments.

  • 10 July 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

Background

The demand for potable water is growing due to population growth, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Water resource managers face an increasing challenge of implementing a more sustainable mix of new systems to complement existing water infrastructure. The uptake of options such as rainwater tanks and greywater reuse is growing and therefore it is critical to get the mix right.

Research

The aim of the research was to get a better understanding of the performance of decentralised systems for residential, commercial and industrial developments. Researchers compared alternative water and sewerage servicing options, such as third pipe systems, rainwater tanks and greywater recycling, with traditional centralised servicing. Based on these comparisons they developed an innovative sustainability assessment framework. The framework helps to evaluate the different options to see which option or combination of options works best for a particular development. The framework incorporated various analytical tools including water balance analysis, life cycle costing, life cycle assessment and community cost.

Outcomes 

The aim of the research was to get a better understanding of the performance of decentralised systems for residential, commercial and industrial developments.

The research presents a comprehensive assessment framework that can be used to evaluate servicing options for any urban area. Researchers used quantitative tools to compare traditional servicing with alternative options. Outcomes show that alternative servicing options such as third pipe systems and greywater recycling, can perform better than traditional servicing with regard to environmental and community cost criteria.

Dr Ashok Sharma, CSIRO Principal Research Scientist, presented the project at the IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition 2008 in Vienna, Austria and was awarded a Sustainability Specialist Group Prize for Research Excellence by the International Water Association. The prize recognises excellence in scientific research relating to sustainable urban water management, and attracts entries from leading organisations all over the world.

The project has also been awarded the Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Award 09 [external link].

The paper ‘Environmental and Economic Assessment of Urban Water Services for a Greenfield Development’ is available at the Environmental Engineering Science website [external link].

Partnerships

CSIRO partnered with staff from Yarra Valley Water and RMIT University to assess different options for providing water and sewerage services to urban developments.

Further research

CSIRO scientists are currently undertaking further research into incorporating social dimensions into the assessment of urban water servicing options. They are also involved in a comprehensive assessment of externalities for economic analysis.

CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country

This project was being delivered through CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship.

The Flagship is a research partnership between CSIRO, State and Australian governments, private and public industry and other research providers. It aims to achieve a tenfold increase in the economic, social and environmental benefits from water by 2025.

The Flagship is addressing one of Australia’s most pressing natural resource issues, the sustainable management of our water resources.

Find out more about Water for a Healthy Country Flagship research.