The USC Sunshine Coast campus is the low point in the wider Sippy Downs catchment area. At the low point of the campus are two lakes with a capacity for 130,000,000 litres of water. The lake water is part of an integrated catchment system that directs storm water run-off through a system of swales and creeks before being collected for storage in two lakes onsite.
Untreated lake water is used for irrigation of campus fields. On-site water treatment removes solids and modifies the lake water to produce potable standard water for use as make-up water to the pools, central energy plant and the cooling towers which are a part of the campus air-conditioning system. The University pool also uses an efficient electronic chlorinator.
Since this project has been implemented, the University has achieved a saving in excess of 20,000 litres of mains water used per day, which also significantly reduces the cost for mains water supply.
The plant draws water from the lake via a low velocity screened intake arrangement, ensuring no flora or fauna is detrimentally affected by the water extraction process. This process greatly reduces the amount of potable water being sourced from mains with the dual benefit of lowering both emissions and water bills.
The water treatment plant consists of feed water pumps, holding tanks and various filtration components - complete with a filter backwash cycle. The capacity of the water treatment plant is sized for a peak flow of 15kL/hr to the cooling towers, and an overall processing capacity of 10kL per/hr. These values were selected to deliver the full amount of cooling tower makeup water during high cooling load requirements.
The treatment plant serving the cooling towers in the central energy plant (CEP) consists of the following elements:
- A foot valve at the centre of the lake and underground intake pipework to the pumps at the CEP
- Raw and filtered water storage tanks
- Glass media filtration system filtering water to 4 micron
- An ultra-filtration system with 0.03 µm nominal pore diameter for removal of bacteria, viruses, and particulates including colloids
- Suitable capacity for the use of the plant and future demand
- Full PLC control system
- Integration into the BMS
The plant is maintained and monitored daily and undergoes monthly water quality testing for biological contamination.
Lake water treatment allows more than 90% of the annual cooling tower, CEP and pool makeup water to be sourced from the lake in non-drought years. This was measured at nearly 24,500 kL in 2020.
Recycled vs. Mains
Given the mains water consumption across USC campuses in 2021 of 27,250 kL at Sunshine Coast and approximately 5,200 kL at Moreton Bay and the harvested water consumption of approximately 28,180 kL at Sunshine Coast and 1,480 kL at Moreton Bay, the percentage of recycled water being used was over 50% at Sunshine Coast and over 22% at Moreton Bay.
USC is the first university to use recycled water in swimming pool
In 2015, USC became the first university in Australia to supplement 'make-up' water for the 50 metre swimming pool with treated onsite lake water. The treated lake water meets the Australian Standard to Potable Water Classification making it the first project of its kind in the country to be used for this purpose. In 2020, USC extended the use of treated lake water to the 25 metre pool.
The USC Moreton Bay campus captures and reuses rainwater in a 110,000 litre tank. Once the rainwater is harvested, it is recycled through the building for use in toilets and urinals.
The USC Sunshine Coast campus captures rainwater from the E Block in a 5,000 litre underground tank. The water is used in E Block's grey water system for toilets and urinals.
Environmentally friendly and non-toxic e-water cleaning solutions are used in the cleaning regime at USC Sunshine Coast to replace the use of commercial cleaning chemicals.
What is eWater?
eWater is produced by applying an electrical charge to a mixture of ordinary tap water and salt.
Known as electrolysis, this process splits the water mixture into positive and negative ions, creating two highly effective and remarkably safe solutions on opposing ends of the pH scale: alkaline for cleaning and acidic for antimicrobial sanitising.
The eWater unit produces two solutions:
- a sanitiser which has powerful antibacterial and fungicidal properties and is up to 80 times more effective than its chlorine-based competitors;
- a cleaner which is a highly effective detergent and degreaser. It effortlessly breaks down stubborn oils and biofilms on all types of surfaces – from stainless steel bench tops and kitchen equipment, to hand washing – without the use of hazardous and costly chemicals.
These eWater systems are in use across the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay campuses.
eWater has been approved for use in Covid cleans by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia.
There is a stormwater management system of lakes, swales and settling ponds on campus to protect the Mooloolah River National Park's waterways from high nutrient levels and sediment run-off.
Water monitoring and systems
Asset Management Services conducts regular surveys to locate water leaks on campus and has implemented audit and flow test of all taps and fittings and the installation of water saving devices and efficient isolation points for ongoing plumbing works on campus.
Hot water at the University’s research centre on Fraser Island is provided entirely by solar hot water systems.
Water Refill campus initiative
USC Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay are Water Refill campuses providing a variety of alternative options to purchasing commercial bottled water on campus.
USC has design standards that mandate the use of Australian Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) rated fixtures and fittings (6-star taps, 4-star dual flush toilets, 6-star low flush urinals and showers with a maximum resultant flow of 9L per minute) to ensure water use is minimised. Signage is posted in public and office toilets to encourage staff, students and visitors to turn off the taps and report any leaks.