Dr John Radcliffe, Honorary Fellow

Dr John Radcliffe, CSIRO Honorary Research Fellow

Successful water recycling around Australia – now and the future

Australian Water Association (AWA) National Water Week seminar by Dr John Radcliffe.

  • 13 September 2012 | Updated 31 October 2012

Event details

Location: City West Reception Centre, Plaistowe Mews, West Perth
Date: Thursday 25 October 2012
Time: 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Seminar program [external link]
Register online [external link]


In the late 1970s, a consulting firm suggested that Australia should start investigating the use of water recycling, noting that Melbourne was likely to be out of water by 2000. But nothing happened for a long while until state EPAs were formed and started to take an interest in the composition of effluents from wastewater treatment plants. Increasing city populations, the millennium drought, recognition of the limits to water resources and the gradual awareness of the risks of climate change focussed the need to look at water recycling as a serious supply option.

We now have “fit-for-purpose” recycled water serving dual piped urban developments, supporting high value horticultural and vegetable crop production, growing pastures for livestock, supporting secondary industries, contributing to recreational water facilities, supporting urban amenities, contributing to the operation of new “green” city office buildings, being used in food and beverage manufacturing and replacing environmental water flows earlier removed upstream for consumptive purposes.

Water recycling has been adopted and accepted at both a capital city and on a regional basis, with over 250GL of recycled water being produced annually. A more sensitive issue is the extent to which recycling will contribute as a resource for our drinking water systems. We have the technology and in some locations, the facilities are in place, but the community and our politicians are still not very comfortable. Language used is an important issue.

The Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence has set in place an investment program encompassing developing water recycling technology, establishing technology validation methods that will be acceptable to regulators, having recycled water accepted by the community for augmentation of drinking water supplies and undertaking a national knowledge, training and education program for water recycling. The Centre’s portfolio of projects will be outlined as it seeks to achieve these goals. Can we succeed in having recycling to purer than drinking water accepted into our drinking water systems in the future?

About the speaker

John Radcliffe is an agricultural scientist who became Director-General of Agriculture in South Australia, a Murray Darling Basin Commissioner for SA, and subsequently was appointed Deputy Chief Executive of CSIRO.

In 2004 he authored the 230 page review Water Recycling in Australia for the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), and was appointed a Commissioner of the then newly formed National Water Commission from 2005-2008.

He currently chairs the ATSE Water Forum, is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, and is a member of the Council of the University of Adelaide.

More information about Dr John Radcliffe.