The United Nations (UN) likely weren’t predicting the impact of COVID-19 when they declared this year’s World Environment Day theme, “It’s time for nature”. But as countries around the world ground to a halt and our environment begins to show signs of repair, this theme seems particularly fitting.

We've been offered a rare glimpse into what a more sustainable future could look like, but Earth's holiday from its most demanding residents won't last forever. To ensure a sustainable future we must all make more permanent changes.

As a business that relies on nature’s resources, we’re especially conscious of the effect we have on our environment. For us, it’s always time for nature. Our target is to become a zero net greenhouse gas emission utility by 2050.

This UN World Environment Day, we’re taking time to celebrate nature, raise awareness of its importance and share a few of the ways in which we’re giving back.

Driving down net vehicle greenhouse gas emissions

Driving down net vehicle greenhouse gas emissions

With 102 passenger vehicles in our metro fleet, managing our vehicle emissions is a crucial part of our environmental strategy. The fleet currently includes 30 hybrid electric vehicles. We also offset the emissions from our fleet at John Tonkin Water Centre by planting trees and other native vegetation in WA.

Over the next five years, we will transition up to 40 percent of our metropolitan fleet to electric vehicles (EV).

The first two EVs joined our fleet in June 2020. The two new Hyundai Konas are fully powered by an on-board battery and have the capacity to travel 449km on a single charge. They’ll be used by Water Corporation employees for daily tasks in the metro area.

At the end of each EV fleet lease, the vehicles will be turned over to the second hand car market. In doing this we hope to support the second hand EV market in Western Australia, improve affordability and stimulate greater demand.

Producing renewable hydrogen and graphite from wastewater

Wastewater treatment produces a by-product called ‘biogas’, which primarily consists of methane and carbon dioxide. While most of this renewable fuel is converted into energy or heat that help power the plant’s processes, the excess is usually burned off.

In an Australian first, we’re embarking on an exciting new partnership with Hazer Group to make better use of our biogas. The Hazer Process is the lowest environmental impact option for converting biogas into hydrogen and graphite.

Green, premium hydrogen can be used as vehicle fuel and chemical feedstock. Graphite has various industrial applications from the production of lithium-ion batteries, steel and aluminium, to more advanced applications such as concrete additives and as composite building materials. It can even be used to purify water.

We will collaborate with Hazer for the three-year construction and operation of their Commercial Demonstration Plant at our Woodman Point Water Resource Recovery Facility. The plant will be able to produce 100 tonnes of fuel grade hydrogen and 380 tonnes of graphite every year. 

Transforming wastewater solids into natural fertiliser

When we treat wastewater, we also produce biosolids. They look like cakes of dirt, and are solid organic matter full of micro-organisms and solid particles that haven’t broken down during the treatment process. Biosolids are most often used as natural fertilisers and soil improvers.

Biosolids are favoured amongst farmers and gardeners because, unlike mineral fertilisers, they bind quickly to soil particles, allowing the nutrients to be slowly released to plants over a longer period of time.

We send our biosolids to farmers and gardeners who meet the specific criteria for use. In WA, biosolids can only be used to grow broadacre crops such as wheat, oat, canola and lupins, as well as for forestry applications such as pine plantations.

Recharging our aquifers with treated wastewater

Groundwater makes up to 40 per cent of Perth’s water supply. In WA, climate change has meant there’s less rain to recharge our aquifers, so we’ve come up with a more sustainable approach. We’re starting to give back what we take.

Our Advanced Water Recycling Plant in Craigie started operating in 2017 and was the first of its kind in Australia. At this facility we further treat our wastewater to drinking water standards and use it to recharge our aquifers, which store the water and naturally filter it until we need it.

Currently, groundwater replenishment makes up two per cent of our Integrated Water Supply Scheme.

At capacity, our Advanced Water Recycling Plant in Craigie can produce 14 billion litres of recycled water each year. The water produced at the plant is used to recharge the Leederville and Yarragadee Aquifers onsite, with the remaining volume of water being transferred to recharge bores drilled in Wanneroo and Neerabup.

Later this year, work will be completed on the second stage of our Groundwater Replenishment Scheme, increasing our capacity for groundwater replenishment.