May 24 – Hayley

It was our last morning in Wagga Wagga and we were all so excited to hit the one city we’ve all been waiting for… Sydney! Of course, you’ve got to give up something great to get something great, and by this I mean it was time to say goodbye to our beloved Flick! It was so nice to meet you, Flick! We all wish you safe travels home and want to thank you so much! We ate our last delicious breakfast and headed on our way.

We started off our day at the Riverina Water County Council where Leanne Hastings was kind enough to show us around. She told us that the RWCC is located on the Murray-Darling basin and that the treatment plant supplies 16,000 square km and 65,000 people with potable water. As a food scientist, I was so excited to get back into chemistry and talk about something that I completely understand. We were off to see the treatment process.

Leanne explained to us that the water comes from two different places, bore (well/aquifer water) and surface water. I’ll start explaining the treatment process first with bore water. The aquifer water is pumped from a well that is about 70m deep below the ground surface. The water is pumped from the well to a holding tank located above ground, where the water is then aerated. The water is aerated to remove hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide gases. If the carbon dioxide is not aerated from the water, it could be corrosive to metals and end up ruining pipes that the water runs through. This water will later be combined with the surface water.

Surface water being pumped from the river.

Surface water being pumped from the river into the treatment facility.

To treat the river (surface) water, the pH must first be corrected. The goal pH for water is between 6.5-8.1 seeing as a pH of 7 would be completely neutral. We correct this by adding lime to the water which raises the pH level (pH of water would never need to be lowered/made more acidic). Then, the water goes through a clarification process. This is done by adding a coagulant, Aluminum Sulfate, which gets the non-water particles to clump together and drop out of the solution into a tank beneath it. At this point, the bore water is joined with the surface water (70% bore, 30% surface).

The combination water is then filtered in a cylinder tank which keeps the untreated water in the center section and the treated water on the outside layer (see picture). The water in the middle section gets purified because the sludge is denser than the water, so the water gets pulled into the outer layer, while the sludge falls to the bottom and into holding tanks. Finally, the water is chlorinated and fluorinated and is held in covered tanks and ready for usage! It was a pretty cool and simple process.

Untreated water is in the center of the storage tank, while the de-sludged water is in the outer part of the storage tank.

Untreated water is in the center of the storage tank, while the de-sludged water is in the outer part of the storage tank.

Holding tank for water in the treatment process. The tank was temporarily out of service for cleaning, but gives a better idea of the water capacity.

Holding tank for water in the treatment process. The tank was temporarily out of service for cleaning, but gives a better idea of the water capacity.

South Australia has faced long periods of drought, leaving them with a shortage of water and the need to conserve it. Since the RWCC is in charge of so much water they have the major responsibility of conserving it. This must be done using sustainable methods. For example, to reduce evaporation and increase efficiency the RWCC has replaced some old piping. Also, the RWCC dehydrates their left over sludge and returns the water from that process to the Marshall’s Creek which keeps water in circulation. They also have taken to banning pumping from 10am-5pm because energy costs more to use in that time frame.

The lime that is stored and added to water to raise the pH.

The lime that is stored and added to water to raise the pH.

I personally was most impressed with the nature strip program they had recently launched. Leanne told us all about how 50% of the potable water from the RWCC is used by Wagga Wagga citizens for gardening purposes. This number shocked everyone, including the RWCC so they launched the nature strip program. This program gives a rebate to citizens who replace the lawn in-between their sidewalk and the street with drought-resistant plants. This reduces the need for water on lawns and, in turn, allows the water to be used for more important purposes. It was good to see that the main company in charge of water distribution has their own rules/regulations, especially since I’ve seen first-hand how precious water is to so many people in Australia.

Wagga Wagga water consumption (based on 2010).

After the water visit, we all hopped on the bus and went to the Country Link Train Station where we got on the train and began our trip to Sydney! Trying to be the straight A students we are at heart, we all used the four-hour train ride to complete, or begin ;), our next papers so that we have plenty of free time during our next few days in Sydney.

We got off of the train, checked in at the youth hostel, and went out to explore the city! Now it’s time to rest up and pick our teams for tomorrow’s scavenger hunt. GAME ON!!

The CountryLink train we took at the Sydney Central Train Station.

The CountryLink train we took at the Sydney Central Train Station.

Group shot! Go Green!

Group shot! Go Green!


The RWCC’s official website. Here you can find information regarding the goals and current projects of the RWCC. Also, they have made it easy to see how the community is involved and some water saving tips to help you reduce your water footprint.

This is a link that discusses adding lime to water for neutralization. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to the process. It also discusses returning the sludge to water systems after the clarification process. The link is a study to show advantages, disadvantages, and areas for improvement to all of these processes.

This link discusses several ways that the average consumer can reduce their water usage. The site breaks down water tips into categories of kitchen, laundry, bathroom, and garden. Also, information on recycled water and other water services are available on this link.

This link is the Australian drinking water guidelines. The website is a summary page and there is a PDF at the bottom for a complete list of guidelines that the RWCC must follow.

A little bit of background information of the Country Link train that we took from Wagga Wagga to Sydney.

Visit to the RWCC

Ride on country link train


3 thoughts on “May 24 – Hayley

  1. Being a health major, I found this visit very interesting because of all of the links it had to health. Fluoride, which often occurs naturally in water is also added to water to protect from tooth decay. The RWCC is not legally required to add this, but the community had decided on it. I got the chance to talk with Leanne and she said that the decision was very controversial at first. The notion to add fluoride into water first arose in 1959, but the community had not decided until 1974 that they were going to carry out the plan. It was astonishing to me that it took such a long time for people to come to an agreement!

  2. There were two things that I found especially interesting on the visit to the RWCC. The first was the incredible amount of water that was used for lawn and garden irrigation across the Wagga Wagga area. About 50% of the water that was being treated and pumped out of that plant was going towards residential watering. Being from an agricultural background in Michigan, water efficiency is one issue that I have really been exposed to and have learned a lot about so far on this trip. Depending on where you are at in the country, water is a huge concern and water efficiency and conservancy is very important. Coming up from South Australia (downriver) to Wagga Wagga, seeing this statistic really surprised me, and showed the difference between an upriver city’s mindset, and a downriver city’s mindset…big difference!

    The other thing that really jumped out at me was the use of public transit in Australia. They have an extensive train system that people actually use, quite heavily actually. This is great when looking at economic and environmental sustainability, because it reduces our carbon footprint and it’s really not that expensive!

  3. Shelly Schmidt

    I find it interesting that 50% of water in that city is used for lawn watering- and wonder if that is a similar situation in the US- we do not water our own lawn alot, but have neighbors that do : ) The process to clean the water is very interesting. And, I sure wish we had trains like they do in Australia- we do have trains, but it would be so nice to have a better system to reach more cities via using trains vs having to drive everywhere.

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