Under the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008, a recycled water provider (or other declared entity for a recycled water scheme) must have either an approved RWMP or an exemption from having an approved RWMP before supplying recycled water, unless a transitional period applies.
The decision tree (PDF, 61.0KB) may help determine whether you are a recycled water provider for the purpose of the Act and require an approved RWMP or an exemption.
If you are still unclear, please contact the Queensland Water Supply Regulator (QWSR) on 07 3247 0355.
Where sewage or effluent sourced from a service provider's infrastructure is intended to be reused, it is deemed to be recycled water. In this case, the entity that owns the infrastructure for the production and supply of the recycled water is a recycled water provider and is required to have an approved RWMP, or an exemption (see decision tree (PDF, 61.0KB)). This is the case even if the entity is sourcing the effluent from a third party and is not a registered service provider themselves.
There is no requirement to apply for registration as a recycled water provider; if an entity meets the definition, they are subject to obligations under the Act.
The following entities must apply for registration as a service provider:
However, a service provider does not include an entity providing a service supplied by infrastructure, if one of the following applies:
For further clarification regarding whether you are required to register as a service provider, contact the QWSR on 07 3224 8371.
Recycled water under the Act includes sewage or effluent sourced from a service provider's sewerage that's intended to be reused. If the council from which you obtain the effluent is a service provider and you further treat the water in order to improve the quality, it is likely that you would meet the definition of a recycled water provider, and therefore be required to have an approved RWMP or exemption (see the decision tree (PDF, 61.0KB)).
If you simply maintain the water quality (e.g. chlorination) or further treat the water for reasons other than to protect public health (e.g. filtration to protect infrastructure), then you may not require an approval. If this situation applies to your scheme, it is recommended that you contact the regulator on 07 3247 0355 to obtain further advice.
If the spent wastewater is
then you will not be required to have an RWMP or an exemption.
If in the future you intend to supply the water to another unrelated entity for reuse, you may fall under the Act and be required to prepare an RWMP or an exemption.
If you are unsure whether the entity supplied to is a related entity, please contact the regulator on 07 3247 0355.
The term service water is often used to describe water that is used for maintenance of a sewage treatment plant, for example as backwash water. This may include water that is treated or partially treated water from that sewage treatment plant. The use of this water by treatment plant workers only (i.e. no contact by the general public) does not need to be an approved use under an approved RWMP or exemption.
You will not be required to submit an RWMP or an exemption if the recycled water is not considered to be reused (see decision tree (PDF, 61.0KB)).
The following information is provided for guidance on the ways that treated sewage or effluent sourced from a service provider's sewerage may be discharged into, or disposed of in, the environment without being considered reused. The list below is not intended to be exhaustive. If, as the owner of sewage treatment infrastructure, you are concerned your particular case does not precisely fall into the scenarios outlined below, please contact the QWSR for further advice.
In the following situations the use of treated sewage, or effluent sourced from a service provider's sewage is not considered to be reused under the Act:
Although your sewage treatment plant operates under a development permit, you may also be captured by the Act (refer to the decision tree (PDF, 61.0KB)) and be required to submit an RWMP for approval or an exemption application.
The conditions of a development approval are intended to ensure sustainable development, and address matters such as management of environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of the treatment plant.
RWMP or exemption applications are required to demonstrate that potential risks to public health have been addressed and can be adequately managed.
Under the Act, recycled water (other than coal seam gas water) includes sewage or effluent sourced from a service provider's sewerage; and other wastewater as defined by the Act. Greywater does not meet this definition of recycled water under the Act and an approved RWMP or exemption is not required.
Greywater is defined in the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 as wastewater from a bath, basin, kitchen, laundry or shower, whether or not the wastewater is contaminated with human waste.
Note that when the Act commenced, recycled water included greywater sourced from a large greywater treatment plant. The definition was amended to exclude greywater, commencing from 23 May 2010. Regulatory guidelines and other documents produced prior to this date may still refer to the superseded definition that includes greywater.
For information about greywater use and approvals refer to the Department of Housing and Public Works website.
You will not be required to have an approved RWMP or an exemption for the use of this water. The owner of the sewage treatment plant may be required to hold an RWMP or an exemption only if the treated effluent is supplied directly to you, or another end-user. As the sewage treatment plant is merely disposing of the effluent into the environment, they are not considered to be 'supplying' recycled water for the purpose of the Act. However, the entity responsible for the treatment plant is likely to have obligations under other legislation, such as the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. You may also require other approvals to extract water from the waterway.
If your recycled water scheme is supplying recycled water for any of the following uses the scheme is not eligible for an exemption and you will have to prepare an RWMP:
While any other schemes may apply for an exemption, it is very unlikely that schemes supplying recycled water for potentially high risk end uses, such as irrigating minimally processed food crops, will be granted an exemption from having an approved RWMP.
For a scheme to be granted an exemption, the application must demonstrate that potential risks to public health associated with the scheme are low. The consideration of low risk may be based on a number of parameters such as low exposure end uses, basic scheme configuration and proven technologies. For more guidance regarding the types of schemes likely to be granted an exemption, refer to the Recycled Water Management Plan Exemption Guideline – December 2011 (PDF, 726.9KB).
The Act contains statutory transitional timeframes for recycled water schemes to have an approved RWMP or exemption. Transitional periods for schemes supplying recycled water for augmentation of a drinking water supply, dual reticulation or irrigation of minimally processed food crops have expired and these schemes must have an approved RWMP before supplying.
Schemes supplying for other uses that were in operation prior to the commencement of the Act on 1 July 2008 (existing schemes) have until 1 July 2014 to have an approved RWMP or exemption. All other new schemes must have an approved RWMP or exemption before 1 July 2014 or the day that is one year after the day recycled water is first supplied under the scheme, whichever is later.
Note that the scheme must have an approved RWMP or be granted an exemption before the applicable transitional period expires. You should ensure that you allow adequate time for the approval process and statutory timeframes for the regulator to consider and decide the application. Schemes applying for an exemption should also allow additional time to prepare an RWMP if the exemption application is refused.
Schemes operating within a transitional period should still ensure that the water quality is suitable for the use and adequate controls are in place to ensure the risk to public health is minimal. It is an offence under the Public Health Act 2005 for a recycled water provider to supply recycled water that they reasonably ought to know is not fit for use.
The Act does not mandate the use of consultants or specifically qualified persons to prepare RWMP or exemption applications. However, the recycled water provider should take into consideration that some recycled water schemes can be complex, and the necessary documentation may require significant expertise in a range of areas.
Under the Act, fees for certain applications may be prescribed under a regulation. However, no fees are currently prescribed for submitting an application for approval of an RWMP or exemption.
Additionally, the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) has developed a continuous improvement tool - Requality - that can be useful for ongoing improvement of a scheme once approved. This tool can be used to assess progress against the twelve elements in the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling Framework for Management of Recycled Water Quality and Use.
The regulator cannot pre-approve an RWMP or exemption for a scheme that has not commenced producing recycled water, as validation of scheme performance is an essential requirement of an RWMP or exemption application. There is no legislative mechanism to pre-approve an RWMP or exemption.
Multiple recycled water schemes may be included in a single RWMP or exemption only if there are connected elements of infrastructure between the schemes, such as treatment systems, piping or storage. In addition, the connected infrastructure must form part of the scheme owned by the recycled water provider or other responsible entity for the scheme.
Recycled water schemes that have an end-user in common, but are not otherwise connected by infrastructure, are not eligible to operate under a single approved RWMP or exemption. This applies even if, for example, both schemes discharge via separate pipelines to the common user's storage dam. Each scheme may have varying individual requirements under an approval and may be subject to other regulatory requirements.
Where most of the infrastructure for the production of the recycled water is the same, it is highly recommended that your scheme operates under a single approved RWMP or exemption, which can address multiple uses with differing water quality criteria.
As a recycled water provider, you may choose to apply for an exemption for one use and have an approved RWMP for other uses; however, this would duplicate some regulatory requirements, such as obtaining approvals, providing annual reports, and incident reporting. Hence it is discouraged.
Only a critical recycled water scheme can be a multiple-entity scheme.
If the regulator has no reason to declare your scheme critical, you cannot be a multiple-entity scheme, even if your treatment infrastructure is connected to another entity's infrastructure. Each entity is responsible for having its own approved RWMP or exemption.
It is recognised that where two schemes abut each other, there may be difficulties in determining what information should be placed in an application, especially for downstream entities treating effluent to Class A+ recycled water. The downstream entity will need to demonstrate that they have met all the regulatory requirements, including required log reductions. Downstream entities are encouraged to speak to the provider of their source water in order to obtain sufficient information for their application.
Further guidance is provided in the Recycled Water Management Plan and Validation Guidelines (PDF, 884.6KB).
Exemptions are granted on the basis that the application demonstrates that risks to public health associated with the scheme are minimal. The table in Appendix 1 of the Recycled Water Management Plan Exemption Guideline 2011 is provided as guidance as to the types of measures likely to be considered appropriate. You do not need to comply with the table to have your exemption approved. Conversely, using the table does not guarantee your exemption application will be approved.
In lieu of using the table, your application may provide alternative evidence to show that the control measures in place and quality of water produced are such that risks to public health are low. This may include references to other relevant guidelines, research or industry standards or your own risk assessment that demonstrates the water quality controls are adequate.
For existing recycled water schemes, pre-commissioning and commissioning validation will not be required if the provider can provide numerous results from treated water quality monitoring. Ideally this would be a minimum 12 months of weekly water quality data. The data must demonstrate that the recycled water scheme can consistently meet the required water quality criteria. As such, data from at least 26 regular samples taken over a time period of at least one year may suffice, however if this is unavailable please contact the regulator to discuss on 07 3247 0355. If the recycled water provider is unable to present this data, other options may include a targeted monitoring program to provide additional data, or testing of a specific control measure to validate its hazard reduction capability.
RWMP and exemption applications must be supported by enough information to enable the regulator to make a decision. The regulator will assess the application against the requirements of the Act and relevant regulatory guidelines, taking into account any applicable water quality standards, the intended uses and the potential public health risks associated with the scheme. If insufficient information is contained in the application, the regulator may issue a notice requesting additional information. This will affect the decision timeframes.
Specifically, RWMP applications are assessed against the relevant criteria detailed in Chapter 3 of the Recycled Water Management Plan and Validation Guidelines.
The regulator must make a decision on the application within 60 business days after receiving an application for an exemption, and within 80 business days after receiving an application for an RWMP. As a thorough assessment against all criteria is required, if the regulator seeks additional information, those 60 or 80 business days recommence after the requested information has been submitted.
The recycled water provider must either submit an application for approval of an RWMP or cease supply of recycled water prior to the expiry of any applicable transitional timeframes.
An exemption is granted for a fixed period set by the regulator, which cannot exceed five years. This period will be stated in the notice given to the provider when the exemption is granted. This period can be altered, or the exemption cancelled, if there are changes to the recycled water scheme or the conditions under which the exemption was granted. Usually exemptions granted for higher risk or complex schemes will be issued for shorter time periods, for example two or three years.
Before an exemption expires, a recycled water provider will require a new exemption to be granted by the regulator. The provider should submit an application for an exemption at least 60 business days before the current exemption expires. This application should include updated information on the scheme.
An RWMP is issued in perpetuity, or until otherwise suspended or cancelled under applicable provisions of the Act. Audits and regular reviews are relied upon to ensure an RWMP remains current and relevant to the scheme's operating conditions. Furthermore if the regulator believes it is necessary to protect public health, or to ensure continuity of a critical supply where applicable, the regulator can ensure required changes are made. Further information is provided in Section 5.5 of the Recycled Water Management Plan and Validation Guidelines.
The conditions imposed on approval of your RWMP or exemption may include, but are not limited to the following:
Water quality criteria are set to protect public health by ensuring hazards are reduced to an acceptable level. The appropriate water quality is determined by the level of human exposure associated with the intended end uses for the recycled water, with consideration of on-site control measures in place for minimising exposure. Recycled water schemes that carry a high likelihood of human exposure or ingestion of the water are required to have the highest level of treatment.
Mandatory minimum water quality standards for certain recycled water uses, where recycled water is derived from sewage or effluent sourced from a service provider's sewerage, are identified in the Water quality guidelines for recycled water schemes (PDF, 511.1KB) and the Public Health Regulation 2005.
For all recycled water schemes, the recycled water provider nominates the quality of water proposed to be supplied under the scheme in the RWMP or exemption application. The regulator then sets water quality criteria as part of the conditions of approval. The criteria are based on information provided in the application that demonstrates that the water quality to be supplied is suitable for the use and that risks to public health have been analysed and can be sufficiently mitigated. The regulator may also refer to national and industry guidelines in determining appropriate water quality criteria.
There are no predefined water quality criteria for recycled water sourced from wastewater. Criteria for these schemes are set on a case-by-case basis, as wastewater can have great variability in the concentration of pathogenic microorganisms and other hazards. The Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling (Phase 1, 2006)provides guidance on determining appropriate water quality targets. It is recommended that the recycled water provider contact the regulator on 07 3247 0355 to discuss the criteria likely to be applied.
The point of supply is a definition used to describe the point at which the monitoring of the final water quality is undertaken on a regular basis, and where the water quality criteria apply. Recycled water at this point must be representative of the water that is supplied to the user, and it should be as close as practical to the physical point where responsibility for recycled water transfers to the user.
Where the point of supply cannot be located in close proximity to the physical transfer point, evidence should be provided that there is no significant deterioration of water quality between the two points. If there is any deviation from the required water quality these must be clearly explained in your application.
Minimum water quality standards for classes of recycled water sourced from sewage or effluent are set in the Public Health Regulation. As a minimum, Class B recycled water must be monitored for Escherichia coli on a weekly basis. If other parameters are identified as potential hazards of significance to public health in the RWMP or exemption application, these may be included as part of the water quality criteria set in the conditions of approval. Water quality criteria may also include other parameters the regulator believes need to be monitored to protect public health.
Our preference is for analysis of all recycled water samples (irrespective of whether the samples are collected for validation or verification purposes) to be undertaken at a laboratory that is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) for the relevant analysis methods.
However, we have recognised the logistical and financial difficulties this may present. If a recycled water provider chooses not to use a NATA accredited laboratory, or conducts 'in house' testing, the recycled water provider should supply documentation of the methodology for the analysis — including the quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) procedures used to perform this analysis.
The water quality standards in the Public Health Regulation for recycled water are quantitative. Therefore commercial testing kits for detection of E.coli by presence or absence are not suitable for recycled water monitoring. Furthermore, please be aware that there are limitations on the suitability of commercial testing kits for detection of E.coli in effluent/wastewater.
The quality of recycled water produced by your scheme will determine if you can undertake 'in house' testing using commercial E.coli testing kits for the purpose of final water quality monitoring. If you wish to use commercial E.coli testing kits for validation monitoring please contact us on 07 3247 0355 to discuss.
If using a commercial test kit, as a minimum, the following documentation must be available to demonstrate the final water quality data is supported by a QA/QC framework. The specific QA/QC requirements will depend on your accessibility to a NATA accredited laboratory.
If you are able to access a laboratory with NATA accreditation for the analysis (i.e. it is possible to send samples to a laboratory for commercial E.coli testing):
If you cannot access a NATA accredited laboratory, you must have:
Sampling at the point of supply and reporting of non compliance with water quality criteria is not required if you are not supplying to any end user, unless the regulator has specifically conditioned the recycled water provider must continuously monitor when supply has ceased.
During unscheduled stoppages, it is best practice to continue monitoring the recycled water if production is still occurring. Sample results may be helpful in identifying issues that may have contributed to the unscheduled stoppages or proving that water quality has not been impacted on recommencement of supply.
You will not need to notify the regulator of the 'failure to test' due to a stoppage of supply, as lack of data for this reason is not considered a noncompliance with water quality criteria. However, you will be required to explain the missing data (e.g. not supplying recycled water from 2 September 2012 to 15 September 2012) in your next annual report.
An annual value can only be calculated once 12 months of water quality data is available. For example, if you only seasonally produce recycled water for four months each year, it will take three years to accumulate 12 months of data. For such seasonal schemes, it is likely the regulator will condition in the notice of approval that the recycled water provider must provide specific information to ensure accountability of the overall performance of the scheme, until the annual values can be calculated.
The information requested may include:
The Water Quality Guidelines for Recycled Water Schemes (PDF, 511.1KB) gives guidance on how annual values are calculated.
The recycled water provider must demonstrate the minimum required log reductions if they are:
Final water quality samples are only a representation of a small part of the recycled water being produced. Furthermore, only indicator organisms are utilised in the monitoring of final water quality on an ongoing basis. The approach of validating the treatment processes using Log Reduction Values (LRV) aligns with the risk based approach recommended in the national guidelines to best manage public health risks. Treatment validation demonstrates the capability of the system to effectively remove more resistant and significant pathogens, such as viruses and protozoa.
Demonstrating log reduction values also reduces the chance of overestimating the efficiency of the process, especially when there is considerable variation in the influent.
Each treatment process of the scheme is investigated separately to demonstrate there is measurable removal efficiency for target organism, which is expressed in terms of log 10 reduction values. The LRV for each treatment process can be added together to provide a total LRV for the whole process.
A granted exemption allows the recycled water provider to operate without an approved RWMP, however the holder of a granted exemption is still required to meet a number of regulatory obligations. These include, but may not be limited to:
Recycled water providers operating under an approved RWMP will have additional and more extensive obligations.
Whether you are operating under an RWMP, or have an exemption in place, you will be required to submit an annual report prepared in accordance with the Annual Reporting Guideline for Recycled Water Schemes.
The purpose of an annual report is to provide the regulator with information on the overall performance of your scheme for the financial year. It is also an accountability mechanism for the users of the recycled water and the public, as the provider is required to make the report available for public inspection. The content of your annual report must include:
You must report all noncompliance with water quality criteria for the recycled water relevant to the scheme. The regulator must be notified as soon as practicable after the noncompliance. The details that must be given to the regulator include:
Other types of incidents may be prescribed in a regulation under section 271 of the Act, and these must also be reported.
At this stage no incidents have been prescribed in the regulation; however the requirement to report certain events and incidents other than a noncompliance with water quality criteria may be imposed as a condition of approval.
Although all recycled water providers must prepare an annual report available for public inspection, schemes that are granted an Exemption from having a RWMP are not required to conduct reviews or audits, or prepare other reports (such as reports referred to in section 274 of the Act).
You will only be required to notify the regulator of a shut down if there is a potential impact on the risk to public health, or if there is a possibility your scheme will not meet the required water quality on recommencement. The length of time a scheme is able to be shut down and not impact on the scheme's required water quality depends on the type of treatment technology involved and therefore varies from scheme to scheme. In general, you will not need to notify the regulator if:
However, if notification of the stoppage is required, the form WSR011 Notice of Unscheduled Stoppage (PDF, 566.7KB) should be completed.
If you are unsure, please contact us on 07 3247 0355 for advice.
As a recycled water provider you must ensure all documents referenced in the RWMP are kept up to date. It is also expected that all operational procedures that are referenced in the RWMP are regularly reviewed, updated and incorporated into the RWMP as a part of your continual improvement process. In most circumstances, you will not have to notify the regulator of these changes.
If you make any substantive changes to a procedure or a process, you will be required to amend the RWMP and apply to the regulator for approval of the proposed amended RWMP. These changes may be considered necessary in response to:
Examples of substantive changes could include, but are not limited to:
In addition to amendments for substantive changes to your approved RWMP, you may also request minor amendments to your RWMP. The minor amendments may include:
For minor amendments to an RWMP, the required form WSR015 Request to Amend Recycled Water Management Plan (PDF, 616.0KB) should be completed. For substantive changes, the required form WSR006 Recycled Water Management Plan Amendment Application (PDF, 600.1KB) must be completed.
If the circumstances under which you were granted an exemption change, which includes supplying recycled water for another use, it is a requirement under the Act to immediately give the regulator notice of the change. The required form WSR014 Notice of Change: Exemption Under Section 257 (PDF, 593.3KB) should be completed.
You should also attach evidence of a brief assessment that shows the water quality to be supplied is suitable for the intended use. The regulator will amend the exemption if the nominated water quality is appropriate, taking into account any control measures implemented by the user. If the regulator amends the exemption, the new uses will be stated in an Information Notice for the Decision.
Where an additional use is considered a high risk to public health, for example if you have an exemption for supply to a nursery and wish to start supplying to a power station for use in a cooling tower, it is unlikely that an amendment to the exemption will be approved. If an amended exemption is not granted, you must either prepare and submit an RWMP for approval or not supply to the proposed new use.
If your existing scheme has additional treatment infrastructure that will treat the recycled water to a higher class, you will be required to submit a new exemption application or an RWMP. Additionally, you should provide:
If there is concern that your existing scheme may not be able to meet new water quality requirements, then the regulator may condition the RWMP or exemption so that the provider will supply monthly final water quality data to the regulator for the first 12 months after approval.
A number of pieces of legislation must be complied with when operating a sewage treatment plant or a recycled water scheme, which may include the Public Health Act 2005, Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002, Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and Environmental Protection Act 1994. The requirements of the Water Supply Act do not negate the requirements of other legislation except where expressly stated or by implication. It is the responsibility of the recycled water provider, or scheme manager where applicable, to determine and ensure compliance with relevant legislative obligations.