A team of RMIT academics is paving the way to a more sustainable future through parkland wastewater recovery.
Hydrating Bungarribee is a design-centred research project that explores the potential for a site-specific low-energy biological wastewater treatment system. The project’s aim is to extract wastewater from a sewer line that passes through the Bungarribee Super Park, which will be a catalyst for regenerating the parkland.
The team working on the project consists of academic researchers from RMIT University’s Centre for Design Practice Research (d_Lab) Professor Anton James from Landscape Architecture, Emeritus Professor Felicity Roddick from RMIT’s Water: Effective Technologies and Tools (WETT) Research Centre and Dr Bruce Jefferson from Cranfield University, UK.
The industry partners involved are Sydney Water, Western Sydney Parklands Trust and Blacktown City Council.
RMIT Professor Anton James, lecturer and research supervisor in Landscape Architecture, said the Hydrating Bungarribee project provided an exciting opportunity to bring together varied local and international expertise.
“The project links science and design to creatively re-imagine how public open spaces can transform wastewater and contribute to positive recreational, environmental and social outcomes in the face of increasingly extreme climatic events.”
The project is founded on the premise that wastewater systems often carry valuable resources away from where they may be treated and utilised.
“Open public spaces like the Bungarribee Park are particularly well placed to benefit from this design outcome,” James said.
The project has resulted in a design for a pilot treatment plant that will treat 10,000 litres of waste per day and deliver 1,000 litres a day of methane. It will also provide educational and recreational outcomes in the form of a “treatment garden”.
Emeritus Professor Felicity Roddick, from RMIT’s School of Engineering, said the treatment garden is made up of a number of planted basins of varying height through which the wastewater flows.
“The cleaner the water, the closer to the ground the basins become. At the entry end, the basins are three metres above ground and associated with a gasometer to capture methane. At the tail end, the basins are half a metre high and flow into flower production beds.”
At the core of their design, academics had to consider ways to contribute to the environmental, recreational, cultural and social sustainability goals envisioned by Parklands Plan of Management.
One of these goals was to relieve the added stress global warming is having on the parkland.
Professor Anton James explained that increasing urbanisation in our cities and changes in climate are placing significant pressures on public open space in the form of climate stress and overuse.
“The sewer network provides a significant resource to increase the viability of parklands by providing water and nutrients to increase biomass, and to buffer the impacts of heat island effects, increased visitation and the increasingly extreme weather patterns. Furthermore the project can contribute to reducing the load on existing wastewater treatment infrastructure," he said.
Professor Roddick said that working with the team on this project was "stimulating, refreshing and rewarding".
“We pooled our different expertise to produce an aesthetically pleasing and functional design of a low environmental impact process for wastewater treatment and reuse for the Bungarribee site. Not only did the design encompass environmental sustainability solutions, but it also served a recreational purpose that will relieve the pressure of overuse and urbanisation on other public open spaces,” she said.
The Hydrating Bungarribee project is the first step in demonstrating the benefits of introducing low cost, low maintenance biological treatment gardens in public open space crossed by sewer lines.
Story: Mikaela Ortolan and Scott Knight