As Australia faces one of its most devastating droughts in history, responsible water usage should be at the forefront of people’s minds.
There are many ways to achieve smart water usage thanks to companies launching creative, cutting edge solutions to conserve this precious resource.
One such company is Smart Utility Management Solutions (SUMS Group), an Australian business originally founded back in 2003 as Watersave Australia.
Their business was born out of a goal to innovate for water savings and improved resource management in a “sunburnt country”.
Today, the technology-focused group offers three main services: An online web platform that delivers water, gas and electricity time of use data anytime, anywhere. A data logging solution so clients can retrieve water and energy data from almost any meter. And, lastly, a business intelligence platform allowing businesses to go beyond data insights to more advanced analytics reports, track progress towards benchmarks and KPIs, be alerted to and stop excess usage events and receive actionable recommendations.
SUMS Group’s marketing and customer engagement manager Outi Kristiina Turunen explains that they’re now working closely with hundreds of public and private sector organisations from local Government’s managing council assets, to the education sector managing water and electricity consumption in schools.
SUMS also serves multiple commercial clients and the residential strata sector.
A great example of SUMS technology resulting in huge water savings can be seen at Bullecourt Apartments in Sydney.
Bullecourt Apartments successfully applied for the City of Sydney’s Building Operations Grant to improve water usage at their complex. Funding was provided to install water sub-metering to track water usage in the two main buildings and car park using the SUMS solution.
As no significant leaks were identified in common areas, data-driven decision making and investigation were required to achieve water and cost savings. SUMS online usage data revealed an unexplained nightly water use in the complex’s main car park, car wash bay and bin wash down areas.
Closer investigation revealed the car park meter was also connected to irrigation. While gardens should have been irrigated using recycled water, inspection revealed that tanks were also connected to town water top-up.
A graph taken from SUMS Portal illustrates water usage and costs for 2015-17, with total water savings of 14,200kL over the two years. These savings equate to the building’s average quarterly usage. Collectively, water-saving activities undertaken at Bullecourt Apartments over those two years achieved cost savings of $46,450.
Outi Kristiina Turunen says as well as the benefits evident in such case studies - those using SUMS monitoring have a much better understanding of utility consumption patterns and therefore a more efficient approach to utility management.
“The SUMS Solution allows identifying, localising and quantifying potential issues and the data and information are shared with relevant stakeholders,” Outi says.
“This results in the exchange of accurate information, reduction of the time required to address issues and the overall improvement of utility performance”.
Moving from data-driven to more physical solutions, the Australian water tank company Polymaster is focused on creative water storage solutions.
As the Australian Government website, YourHome points out, rainwater is a valuable natural resource that has been collected by Australian households for domestic use since colonial times.
“Using rainwater can reduce water bills, provide an alternative supply during water restrictions and help maintain a green, healthy garden,” the site explains.
In an urban environment, however, some properties cannot conceive the idea of having a tank because of the amount of space needed. To address this Polymaster has developed an underground water tank storage solution.
“An increasingly popular option for architects and builders is an underground water tank, that allows for homeowners to maximise their space,” Polymaster’s Yvette Fitzpatrick explains.
This gives homeowners more green space or parking space when placed under paved traffic areas, driveways, garden beds or lawns.
“This solution is not only aesthetically pleasing but an eco-friendly way to capture and harvest rainwater,” Fitzpatrick says.
Constructed from BPA-free food-grade polyethylene, the tanks are available in 3300 litre and 5000 litre sizes. The tanks can then be joined together to create more capacity.
“They actually have the smallest footprint in the industry and give you maximum capacity for the minimum square meterage.”
The tanks are fully tested and designed to withstand ground and water pressure at depth and have been engineered by geotechnical experts to suit ground conditions throughout Australia.
Polymaster said the smartest way to keep water clean inside the tanks is to install a Vortex Filter. This not only removes 95 percent of sediment and debris, but it also aerates the water.
Aerated water keeps the walls of the tank healthy, reducing the chance of any harmful bacteria growing.
Polymaster offers water saving solutions for the industrial market too, and is always up for helping businesses save litres and money. An example of this is the water saving solution they found for
Australia’s largest privately-owned logistics company, Linfox.
Linfox Property Group had two new airline hangars constructed at Essendon Airport and the roofs of the hangars captured a huge amount of rainfall, particularly under heavy rain conditions.
They wanted this significant rainwater harvesting potential to store a minimum of 400,000 litres. This would allow them to harness this rainwater and reuse it to irrigate the vast areas of the surrounding landscaping as part of their obligations with the Essendon Airport.
Polymaster supplied them with eighteen 22,500 litre tanks with welded fittings and expansion joint bellows.
The rainwater tanks were able to provide them with both the solution to meet the requirements of certain size restrictions of the tanks in a designated area, but also achieve the capture of this phenomenal rainwater capacity requirement.
Another innovator in the area of water saving solutions is Atlantis, a company renowned for sustainable environmental solutions.
Their objective is to create sustainable environmental solutions, turning major environmental problems into rejuvenated assets that enhance water quality and reduce or eliminate contaminated water discharge.
A great example of this can be seen at the Gladstone Coal Exporters Maritime Precinct. Gladstone Ports Corporation were creating a sub-tropical water side parkland to provide a cool, green oasis for the community.
Water, was of course, a critical element in delivering this vision as an essential life source to sustain a cool, green landscape during hot and dry spells. Gladstone Ports Corporation wanted to find alternative water supplies to help drought proof the parkland and relieve the reliance on drinking water supplies while also minimising water demand through passive irrigation techniques.
Atlantis was able to answer their calls with a wicking bed system made up of subsurface stormwater storage to provide passive irrigation of open lawn areas. This conserves regional drinking water supplies by substituting potable water with local sources of recycled water for landscape irrigation.
Atlantis engaged their ‘wicking bed’ technology to store locally harvested stormwater runoff in shallow sand aquifers below two large open lawn areas. Stormwater runoff from the site is collected and stored within a sand layer creating a subsurface aquifer.
The aquifer layer is positioned directly below the topsoil layer and any extra water is stored here. The pore spaces in the sand layer provide the storage space for the stormwater while the wicking beds use the natural process of soil capillary rise to draw water reserves held in the aquifers to the active root zone.
As the turf removes water from the soil it is replaced by water replenished from the storage below by capillary action, ensuring perfect soil moisture conditions for healthy turf growth.
Atlantis also set up their mini-Flo-tank modules in the sand for rapid and even distribution of water. The stormwater is distributed through the wicking bed systems via a network of 100mm slotted PVC pipes with a layer of Atlantis 52mm Flo-cell drainage cells between each run.
If the subsurface storage fills the pipes completely, stormwater overflows via a series of overflow pipes set at the top of the storage zone below the turf topsoil layer. This overflow system ensures that the turf layer won’t be submerged during rainfall events and also promotes enhanced drainage of the turf soil layer.
Atlantis explained that the potential of this scalable no-energy, stormwater harvesting technology is endless and its benefits wide-ranging.
Not only does it reduce stormwater and pollutant loads to the environment but it also reduces potable water use, energy requirements for irrigation and fertilise.
It helps with the retention of soil moisture while increasing turf resilience to dry periods with no water logging or boggy fields.
Another clever invention by Atlantis is their Rainwater Harvesting Re-use System which works to provide a regular clean water supply for houses and businesses. Atlantis describes the system as the answer to “living in a greener world and understanding that recycling such a precious commodity is a greater approach to sustainable living.”
The system works by capturing water from both landscaped areas through surface infiltration and from roof areas which are filtered through an Atlantis Filtration Unit.
Clean water is retained within the storage area away from harmful U.V. light and heat remaining cool underground readily available for reuse. This water can then be used for flushing toilets, in washing machines, watering gardens and washing cars.
When considering that all living things rely on water to survive, it’s becoming increasingly important that water saving technology in one form or another be incorporated into all elements of design right across the country.