What is WaterVal?
Australia is recognised internationally for its water quality management guidelines that identify treatment technology validation as integral to effective water management.
The Australian water sector is united in its call for a more streamlined approach to technology validation, enhancing innovation and efficiency by minimising duplication and inconsistency. WaterVal is a collaborative effort between researchers, water utilities, regulators and the private sector, that delivers more consistent and cost-effective water treatment solutions.
The validation framework is underpinned by validation protocols, which are independently developed and agreed methodologies to assess pathogen removal using treatment technologies. The framework and protocols are applicable to a broad range of water sources, and complement the objectives of the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling (2006) and (2008), and the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011 – updated 2016).
In 2011 Australia’s water sector, facilitated by the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence identified a nationally consistent approach to technology validation as a priority for the industry. Since then, the water sector has strongly endorsed the framework and actively participated in the applied research. It is now guiding the development and review of the protocols.
Adding value to Australia’s water industry
An independent cost benefit analysis of the value of implementing a nationally consistent approach to validation in Australia found the framework has application to a wide range of technologies that could also accommodate technologies used to treat water from surface storages, aquifers, recycled water and stormwater. The analysis identified future savings of up to $80 million for the water recycling sector alone when implemented nationally. For more see:
To protect the health of people and the environment, technologies used in water treatment need to meet the various performance targets specified in Australian water quality management guidelines.
Currently across Australia, there is no consistent approach to validating treatment technologies against these guidelines. Following extensive consultation with industry, the WaterVal framework and tools were developed to streamline technology validation.
Following industry consultation facilitated by the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence it was agreed that a national validation framework be developed for recycled water to demonstrate compliance with the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling (2006) (AGWR). Initially, WaterVal was developed as a national validation framework for treatment technologies used in recycled water treatment. However, the industry quickly recognised that WaterVal is applicable to water treatment more generally and has supported the development of specific protocols for technologies also used in drinking water and other forms of water treatment.
The recognition of streamlining, national consistency and efficiency gains in regulatory approval processes was one of the key drivers identified by industry as a benefit of a national technology validation framework.
While validation of treatment technology is part of the Australian water quality management guidelines (drinking and recycled water), there was no agreed process for national recognition of treatment technology validation studies undertaken either overseas or as part of approval processes within Australia. Additionally, there is limited consistency among Australian jurisdictions on specific validation requirements for some common and more novel individual treatment technologies used in recycling and drinking water management. In addition, new validation testing often replicates work on similar or identical technologies in other jurisdictions.
As a consequence, there has been some duplication of effort between regulators across jurisdictions, additional cost for private technology manufacturers and water utilities, and possibly unnecessary delays in project approvals and commissioning of projects.
These costs and delays have been identified by the water industry (public and private sectors) as an obstacle to innovation, and cost-effective water treatment and supply management, particularly for smaller regional utilities and small to medium private technology manufacturers for whom the red-tape of regulation becomes a barrier.
Consultation with a range of stakeholders involved in water treatment technology validation confirmed the tangible economic value to the Australian water industry in developing and implementing a more codified, consistent and scientifically robust process for technology validation.
A streamlined process will help stimulate innovation in technology and its uptake in the market. Government and regulatory stakeholders also confirmed that red tape reduction and streamlining regulation is a priority.
WaterVal has been designed to achieve these objectives.
National consultation revealed that over-engineering of water treatment schemes has not been uncommon. Regulators often face the practical challenge of retaining skilled staff and ensuring they are up to date with complex scientific advances and latest technological developments.
For stakeholders participating in the technology validation processes, including scheme and technology proponents, consultation revealed instances of confusion about roles and responsibility for attaining validation. These can lead to project delays, confusion about requirements, inconsistent application of regulations and insufficient capacity or capability in approving agencies – all contributing factors to unnecessary financial costs and ultimately higher charges to the water customers.
Proponents suggested that validation processes need to be clearer and more transparent, with much greater certainty regarding outcomes. In addition, improved arrangements will allow the market for water treatment technologies to grow and prosper in the future.