More work needed for Australian water recycling

Water recycling is a critical component for the future of water in Australia. Cress Consulting CEO Julia Seddon believes that Australia has enormous potential to do better.

Water recycling is a critical component for the future of water in Australia. Cress Consulting CEO Julia Seddon believes that Australia has enormous potential to do better.

“Water is still a significant issue, and it’s still poorly managed and understood. It’s like a big invisible risk for many businesses and communities. We face different types of water risks, sometimes several at once. There are many issues around equity and access to the water resource too.”

This is the assessment of water from Julia Seddon, CEO of Cress Consulting. Cress Consulting is committed to finding the right solutions for businesses to help achieve a sustainable, secure future. It believes organisations need to understand the risks of climate change and water scarcity to ensure organisations can create a more resilient, sustainable, and profitable future for their business.

Cress Consulting also believes that working towards a more sustainable business model offers opportunities to save costs and improve operational efficiency, performance, and reputation.

Documenting climate and water risks

In the eyes of Seddon, some businesses are getting better at documenting their climate and water risks.

“I see some businesses doing a fantastic job addressing or dealing with the challenge of climate change,” said Seddon. “Water is often how we experience climate change, whether it’s drought or flood. Farmers have to respond to the climate they’re presented with. As a sector, agriculture is quite good at adapting to that and recognising the need for change.”

However, she noted that many businesses aren’t making enough changes. There are also reports on environmental, social and governance (ESG) that look great but, in the eyes of Seddon, smells of smoke, mirrors and greenwashing.

“If you’re a business, you need water at some point. You will face the impacts of climate change at some point along your supply chain, your value chain, or with your clients. It is worth doing it well and doing it properly,” said Seddon.

“It makes sense from a practical perspective,” she said. “If you want to be in business for a long time, if you want to keep employing new people and providing your customers with your product, you need to do that sustainably. Otherwise, you’ll be driven out of business because of an event, the availability of material or the cost of not adapting. All business models must consider their sustainability issues and address them properly.”

The importance of water recycling

The recycling and reuse of water is a critical issue that Australia needs to address correctly, and it needs to be done properly, said Seddon.

“If you’re going to reuse water, it has to be done properly, and it has to be fit for purpose. Its intended uses need to be identified.”

“There’s a whole process that you need to go through in terms of making sure that you’ve addressed the water quality risks and producing water that’s fit for purpose,” Seddon said. “Any water is a resource that could be harnessed and harvested. I’d like to see a lot more of that.”

She believes that the water industry is doing a lot of things well, including trying to price water at all levels accurately.

“I know a lot of industries, including the water industry itself, do a lot of work on determining the true cost of water. They are working out how much it costs to pump it from here to there. They know there is a lot of energy involved in moving water around. You could be heating or cooling it, adding chemicals to it, all sorts of different things,” said Seddon.

However, those costs are not reflected in the broader community. Water may be worth more than people anticipate due to the costs associated with managing and moving it. Thinking locally could be vital to improving rates of water recycling.

“While some communities may object to a water recycling facility nearby, it’s all in the perception,” said Seddon. “When I was in the food industry, we never talked about recycled water. We talked about advanced water because it came through an advanced water treatment process. The way we talk about things is critical.”

What water stewardship means for Australia

At the same time, people and enterprises must understand water stewardship. Water stewardship moves beyond water efficiency; it’s about knowledge and understanding collaboratively to improve how the water a business relies on is managed. Increasing the security of the water supply without impacting others can help reduce the risk of water scarcity in a business’s operations.

“Water stewardship is about water risk management and sustainable water management,” said Seddon. “But it’s also about environmental, social, and economically sustainable water use and management. The adage of waste not want not really applies here. Water stewardship is about caring for a shared resource, so one principle is to be frugal with it and reuse where you can.”

Seddon believes that water stewardship encapsulates water recycling because it does not take resources away from one part of the community, society, or environment. It is taking care of a shared resource.

“When the industry thinks about water recycling and stewardship, it’s not just about processing their products or keeping your factory clean. It’s about providing the right quality and volume of water at the right cost for every section of society.”

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