Orange mayor Reg Kidd at the stormwater holding pond.

Orange mayor Reg Kidd at the stormwater holding pond.

Orange uses wetlands to filter and recycle stormwater

Orange uses wetlands to filter and recycle stormwater

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Off the back of the Millennium Drought in 2008, the regional NSW city of Orange came very close to running out of water, and the local council decided to solve the problem by thinking outside the box.

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Off the back of the Millennium Drought in 2008, the regional NSW city of Orange came very close to running out of water, and the local council decided to solve the problem by thinking outside the box.

More than a decade on, the city's stormwater harvesting system - which uses wetlands to naturally filter the water - is internationally recognised and provides up to 25 per cent of its annual supply.

The $5 million project took 18 months to go from concept to reality and was the first of its kind in Australia.

It involves directing the run-off from the city's urban environments into a large drainage system. Gross pollutant traps stop large bits of rubbish, before the water is directed towards one of two wetlands.

The wetlands slow down the flow, reducing sediment in the water.

Orange City Council water compliance officer Nicole Reed said native plants were used in the wetlands to help the filtration process.

"We wanted to have lots of reeds in the water, they were chosen to specifically assist with the process," Ms Reed said.

"They help get out the sediments and use the nutrients to grow. In a nutshell, the native plants clean the water."

Orange resident Nick King and former councillor Neil Jones at the Ploughmans Wetland.

Orange resident Nick King and former councillor Neil Jones at the Ploughmans Wetland.

From there, the water flows to a second wetland for further filtration.

Three pumping stations transfer the water to a 240-megalitre holding dam. From there, it's transferred to batch ponds, where a clarifying agent is added to further reduce sediment.

At maximum capacity, 6.5 megalitres of recycled stormwater can be pumped into Suma Park Dam a day, which is about 65 per cent of Orange's daily water consumption. From the dam, it then goes through the traditional treatment process.

On average, the stormwater harvesting scheme contributes 1300 megalitres, which is about 25 per cent of Orange's yearly consumption.

Along with the stormwater harvesting, Orange council wanted to change the mindset of its residents to be naturally water wise.

Through a combination of water restrictions, education programs, installing water efficient devices across the city and working with high-water users, Orange was able to reduce its annual water consumption to under 5000 megalitres, or a drop of almost 40 per cent from its peak in 2002.

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