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What is recycled water?

Our Recycled Water Treatment Plants in Port Macquarie and Bonny Hills provides a valuable, renewable water resource that lessens demand on our drinking water supplies.  Recycled water is not for drinking, but is used by Council and approved businesses in Port Macquarie for purposes that do not require drinking water quality.  These uses include:

  • irrigation and watering public parks, open space areas, sporting fields, bowling greens, nurseries etc.
  • toilet flushing
  • ·vehicle washing and detailing
  • commercial laundry washing (subject to satisfactory system performance for health requirements).

Information for Thrumster residents on their connection to the Recycled Water System

Information for Lake Cathie Bonny Hills residents on their connection to the Recycled Water System


How is recycled water produced?

Recycled water originates from the Lake Road/Ocean Drive treated wastewater ponds.  This treated wastewater is then treated further by UV disinfection, microfiltration, reverse osmosis, additional UV disinfection, chlorine and mineralisation at our Recycled Water Treatment Plants (formerly known as Reclaimed Water Treatment Plant). 

After this high level of treatment, the recycled water is:

  • ·odourless,
  • free from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, and
  • conforms to National and NSW State guidelines for the production and use of recycled water.

After treatment, recycled water is delivered to the storage reservoir in Morton Street Port Macquarie, ready for distribution via a new reticulation network.  This network is totally separate to the town drinking water supply.

The construction of the recycled water reticulation network uses colour-coded lilac (light purple) pipes to easily distinguish the recycled water from town water.  This protects the integrity of the town water supply system and the safety of the public.

The Port Macquarie Recycled Water Treatment Plant is used in education programs, with public viewing areas and a lecture theatre.  This allows Council to provide lectures and tours to local school and community groups. If you are interested in visiting this facility, please contact Council to book a tour of the plant.  This plant is a safe environment to visit, with disabled access.

The process of producing recycled water 

Treated effluent is piped directly into the recycled water treatment plants.  A multiple barrier treatment process is used to ensure that only the highest quality (Six Star) water is produced.  This approach is supported by highly credible agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Authority and World Health Organisation in their guideline documents.

The plant is fully automated and our computer system will automatically shutdown faulty equipment and send an alert to Council staff.  Constant online monitoring and water quality testing is also used to alert us if any one of the seven treatment process barriers should fail.  We also have a full time operator at the plant who performs daily testing to ensure the system is working to its optimum.

Barrier 1:  Ultraviolet Light Disinfection

The treated wastewater flows through an Ultraviolet Light Disinfection Unit. The ultraviolet light is hundreds of times more powerful than sunlight.  It kills bacteria and viruses and inactivates parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Barrier 2:  Straining out larger contaminants

Larger contaminants that we can see are captured as the disinfected water flows through the self cleaning strainer.  After passing through the strainer the water enters the Microfiltration Unit.

Barrier 3:  Microfiltration

Water is drawn through hollow membrane fibres which have tiny 0.04 micron holes.  Water molecules are small enough to pass through, but bacteria, parasites and most contaminants are unable to pass through the membranes.  The filtered water is piped into a holding tank ready for reverse osmosis.

Barrier 4:  Reverse Osmosis

The filtered water passes through reverse osmosis membranes with even smaller holes (0.0001 micron) in a process called "reverse osmosis". The holes are so small that bacteria, viruses, salts and chemicals cannot pass through. The water that passes through this barrier is of Six Star quality and is called "permeate water".

Barrier 5:  Ultraviolet Light Disinfection

The permeate water passes through another Ultraviolet Light Disinfection Unit which is capable of destroying organic chemicals.  Its cleansing rays can also kill viruses and bacteria and inactivate parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.  Although no pathogen is expected to be left in permeate water, this barrier and the next barrier are in place to guarantee the quality of the final recycled water.

Barrier 6:  Sodium Hypochlorite Disinfection

The water is then disinfected with chlorine to keep it clean on its journey through the network of purple pipes to the Morton Street Reclaimed Water Reservoir.  From the reservoir, it is piped to sporting fields and commercial premises to be used for irrigation, toilet flushing, car washing and dust suppression. 

Barrier 7:  Mineralisation

Natural water contains minerals like calcium.  Calcium in the water helps with maintaining the pH level.  Permeate water has very low calcium, as calcium is lost in the reverse osmosis treatment.  Calcium is added to permeate water by a calcite filter, which is a tank filled with crushed natural calcium rock (calcite).  As permeate water goes through this filter it dissolves the right amount of calcium naturally.  The final product is highly treated water, with balanced pH, and is known as "recycled water".

Who uses recycled water?

Industries around Port Macquarie have been using recycled water every day since 2007. They have contributed to saving drinking water by using recycled water for sporting fields, car washing, and industrial purposes etc.


User Name Purpose   User Name Purpose
Port Macquarie Race Club Irrigation   Port Home Zone Irrigation, toilet flushing
Port City Bowling Club Irrigation, toilet flushing Port Macquarie Croquet Club Irrigation
Ground FX Landscape Supplies Truck washing Caltex Star Mart, Lord St Irrigation, car washing, toilet flushing
St Josephs Primary School Irrigation Garden Village Port Macquarie Irrigation, toilet flushing
Port Macquarie Car Wash, Gordon St Car washing Best Wash Port Macquarie, Bellbowrie St Car washing
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council HQ Irrigation Town Green Irrigation, toilet flushing
Glasshouse Toilet flushing, laundry Findlay Park, Stuart Park, Dixie Park, Wayne Richards Park Irrigation
Port Macquarie Wastewater Treatment Plant Maintenance Port Macquarie Water Tanker Filling Station Industrial, commercial, construction

A safe and separate system

Our Recycled Water Supply is kept completely separate from the town drinking water supply.  It is stored in a separate reservoir in Morton Street and travels in separately marked purple pipes.  Commercial premises using recycled water have separate purple recycled water meters.

Recycled water taps turn in the opposite direction to drinking water taps. The tap handles are required to be removed when not in use.  All taps have bright yellow signs advising people not to drink the recycled water.

Recycled water is only supplied to selected businesses and sporting fields.  User Agreements are implemented at each site outlining the responsibilities of Council and the recycled water users. 

What are the benefits of recycled water?

  • Reduced future consumption of our drinking water supplies
  • Parks, gardens, and other open spaces are kept green and in good playing condition, even during future drought conditions
  • Environmental benefits include:  less treated effluent discharged into streams, rivers and ocean, and less water being pumped from the Hastings River for the town drinking water supply.

How much recycled water is produced?

The Recycled Water Treatment Plant has the capacity to produce 2.0 megalitres per day (ML/day) of recycled water.   In response to the increasing demand in Port Macquarie for recycled water, the plant was upgraded in 2017 from 1.0 ML/day to 2.0 ML/day, which is approximately 10% of the average daily drinking water supplied to the Port Macquarie area.  


This page was last updated on: 02 December 2020