SELLING recycled water from Melbourne Water’s Eastern Treatment Plant near Carrum could raise at least $240 million a year.
Clean Ocean Foundation president Peter Smith says South East Water is failing to adequately market the Class A quality water being poured daily into the sea at Gunnamatta on the Mornington Peninsula.
Mr Smith for years led the battle that last year finally saw Melbourne Water lift the quality of water being discharged from the outfall.
But with that battle won, Mr Smith says Clean Ocean is now concerned at the environmental effects of billions of litres of fresh water going into the sea and the loss of potential revenue.
“Under the current structure, South East Water is the retailer. So it is their responsibility to find customers,” Mr Smith said.
“South East Water has had its head in the sand and is looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Mr Smith said 400 megalitres of Class A water pumped daily through the Gunnamatta outfall could reap $247.7 million a year.
He said the state government needs to pay for new pipes to carry the treated water to where it can be used: “To Gippsland, Werribee, the Yarra River or wherever.”
“The Mornington Peninsula does not have the demand and probably never will, and from my understanding there are currently minimal re-use programs underway.”
Mr Smith said Melbourne Water started pumping Class A water to Gunnamatta on Christmas Day but had purposely avoided publicity because “the upgrade came about by community pressure and it was not an innovation or decision made by the water authorities but by essential services, in effect the Health Department”.
He thinks the government will only react as a result of public embarrassment over potential lost revenue and the waste of a valuable resource.
“We don’t believe that South East Water has the determination or will to propose options to the state government without a concerted community push. Similar to the Class A upgrade program,” Mr Smith said.
“Going to the beach became a serious community health problem. This is of course why we are not hearing about the upgrade in the way of back-slapping press releases.
“What is forgotten is the polluting of the marine environment by fresh water over many kilometres of our coastline.
“This pollution has not changed since the Class A water upgrade.
“The bull kelp forests continue to be decimated, resident fish probably have two heads and three eyes, and the small shellfish and micro-organisms will continue to mutate and die.”
On its website, South East Water states that Class A recycled water is “a sustainable water supply that we are delivering to a growing number of new homes in Melbourne’s southeast”.
Customers are listed as including Sandhurst estate near Skye and parts of Lyndhurst, Cranbourne, Pakenham and Officer.
It states new infrastructure will “expand the recycled water network even further. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2030 we’ll have approximately 43,000 properties connected to recycled water in our service region”.
South East Water and Melbourne Water did not respond to calls or emails.