Recycled water proposal to help farmers

Hopeful: Cawdor dairy farmer Tony Biffin wants Sydney Water to allow farmers to use recycled water on their properties. Picture: Kate Geraghty, 2016
Hopeful: Cawdor dairy farmer Tony Biffin wants Sydney Water to allow farmers to use recycled water on their properties. Picture: Kate Geraghty, 2016

Using recycled sewerage water on farms in the shire seems like a no-brainer.

Well at least it does to Wollondilly councillors and a Cawdor farmer.

Now Sydney Water is investigating whether a recycled water scheme is a viable option.

Cr Michael Banasik wants to see sewage and grey water – relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks and washing machines – treated and reused on farms and sporting fields locally.

“When there is a shortage of water we have to get innovative,” Cr Banasik said.

“When I visited Cobar in central western NSW recently, the sporting fields were much greener than those in Picton because they use recycled water.”

Cawdor dairy farmer Tony Biffin supports the idea and has put in a proposal to Sydney Water to get recycled water directly to his farm for large-scale agricultural irrigation.

“Not only would this scheme assist us at Biffins dairy to increase productivity within our enterprise, but it would boost the production capacity of the whole district,” he said. 

“I want to work with Sydney Water to identify farmers who want to take up the scheme.

“Numerous landholders in the Cawdor area have expressed an interest in receiving recycled water. 

“That is, provided it comes at an affordable cost and is available on an ongoing and long-term basis.”

The recycled water could be used to irrigate fruit and pastures, as well as drinking water for livestock. It could also be used to water gardens and fight fires.

A Sydney Water spokesman said Sydney Water was investigating potential recycled water opportunities in the areas around Picton, Tahmoor, Bargo, and Buxton as well as near the West Camden Water Recycling Plant.

“We’re considering options that include providing recycled water to irrigate local playing fields as well as meeting the water demands of agriculture and local industry,” he said.

“We’ll be contacting potential recycled water customers to determine demands, requirements for suitable water quality, as well as the requirements for storing and transporting recycled water. 

“Sydney Water expects to complete the study by the end of the year.”

A Sydney Water fact sheet said if the scheme went ahead, recycled water would likely be supplied to the customer’s property boundary via a pipeline from the supply source. 

“The cost to supply recycled water in West Camden will depend on demand volume and location,” the fact sheet said.

“Customers will be responsible for funding onsite work such as storage, reticulation and irrigation systems that may be required.”

Councillor Blair Briggs last year floated the concept of using recycled waste water and stormwater from Wilton New Town on agricultural lands.

“I have a background in engineering and irrigation,” he said. “Overseas it is not uncommon to see grey water systems operating efficiently. I really want to see something happen in this space.”

Cr Matt Gould said if farmers tapped into a water recycling system effectively then it would give them a significant competitive advantage.

“Farming in peri-urban areas has some increased costs but this is an example of where there can be some increased benefits to justify those costs,” he said.

“This can make Wollondilly attractive for farmers.”

Council staff plan to meet with Sydney Water to discuss the viability of the scheme.

Cr Banasik wants to see the scheme become mandatory for all new growth areas in the shire, especially Wilton New Town.