Recycled water regulation
In Queensland, the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water and Queensland Health co-regulate recycled water under the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability Act) 2008 and the Public Health Act 2005.
The scope of the regulatory framework extends to recycled water produced from the following sources:
- sewage or effluent from a service provider’s infrastructure, and
- wastewater from industrial, commercial, or manufacturing activities.
The regulation of recycled water differs depending on how much recycled water a member of the public might be exposed to.
Low exposure uses
Queensland Health is the primary regulator of low-exposure recycled water schemes. Low-exposure uses of recycled water include:
- irrigation of public open spaces such as playing fields or parks
- irrigation of pasture and fodder crops
- irrigation of heavily processed food crops such as sugar cane
- irrigation of non-food crops such as woodlots, and
- dust suppression.
To assist those involved in low-exposure recycled water schemes meet their obligations under the Public Health Act, Queensland Health has prepared a Guideline for low-exposure recycled water schemes (PDF 1302 kB). This guideline recommends undertaking monthly, rolling assessments of recycled water quality. Five spreadsheets have been developed, one for each class of recycled water, to assist recycled water providers undertake these assessments:
- Class A+ E.coli annual value calculation tool (XLSX 60 kB)
- Class A E.coli annual value calculation tool (XLSX 62 kB)
- Class B E.coli annual value calculation tool (XLSX 60 kB)
- Class C E.coli annual value calculation tool (XLSX 60 kB)
- Class D E.coli annual value calculation tool (XLSX 61 kB)
High exposure uses
Recycled water providers that supply recycled water for high-exposure uses are primarily regulated by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water. However, Queensland Health is a co-regulator of these schemes and is responsible for setting of water quality standards in the Public Health Regulation 2018. High exposure uses of recycled water include:
- augmentation of drinking water supplies (also known as indirect potable reuse)
- dual-pipe schemes (where, in addition to drinking water, recycled water is supplied to residents for non-potable domestic purposes such as toilet-flushing, laundry and irrigating lawns or gardens), and
- irrigation of minimally processed food crops.
The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water has developed a suite of guidance materials for managers and operators of these schemes.
Recycled water management plans
Recycled water providers that supply recycled water for high exposure uses must have a recycled water management plan that is approved by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.
Although there is no regulatory requirement for recycled water providers operating low-exposure schemes to have a recycled water management plan, having one can be a useful way of managing the risks associated with the supply and use of recycled water.
Recycled water providers needing or wishing to develop a recycled water management plan should refer to the most recent edition of the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks (Phase 1) and the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water’s suite of guidance materials.
Recycled water user agreements
A recycled water scheme typically comprises a recycled water provider and a recycled water user, or several users. This arrangement means that a recycled water provider is reliant on the user, or users, to ensure the recycled water is being used appropriately. Recycled water providers are therefore strongly encouraged to enter into formal agreements with users of recycled water. To assist those involved in low-exposure schemes, Queensland Health has developed a Model recycled water user agreement (DOCX 296 kB).
Requirements applicable to all recycled water schemes
All recycled water providers must register their recycled water schemes with the Queensland water supply regulator.
Find a list of registered recycled water schemes.
All recycled water providers are also obliged to supply recycled water that is ‘fit for use’ and does not represent a ‘public health risk’, as defined in the Public Health Act 2005.