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Technolo Technolo Technolo Technology Development and gy Development and gy Development and gy Development and Implementation Recommendations

3.4 3.4 3.4

3.4 Technolo Technolo Technolo Technology Development and gy Development and gy Development and gy Development and

4 4 4

4 Results and Discussion Results and Discussion Results and Discussion Results and Discussion

4.1 4.1 4.1

4.1 Pre Pre Pre Pre- - -Scoping Study - Scoping Study Scoping Study Scoping Study

4.1.1 4.1.1 4.1.1

4.1.1 Site Findings and Discussion Site Findings and Discussion Site Findings and Discussion Site Findings and Discussion

A summary of the findings from the user interviews for the pre-scoping study are shown in Table 21. A number of interesting characteristics of remote settlement water systems in the Northern Territory emerged.

In terms of the social aspects of water systems, at almost all the sites the population fluctuates throughout the year. This was most marked at the two farms, which could increase in size by ten times during busy times of the year (crop harvest or cattle mustering). This has implications for both water and wastewater treatment technologies in terms of their ability to deal with significantly varying loads or even periods of no use. The populations served by the water systems ranged from 5 to 50 people.

Water use occurs for a variety of purposes: human consumption, crop irrigation, filling swimming pools, cleaning, stock use, use in evaporative air conditioners, showering and toilet flushing. These purposes will obviously have different water quality requirements and sources were managed (where possible) to ensure that water quality was suitable for the purpose e.g. a poor quality bore may be used for stock water but not for potable supply to a residence.

The types of technologies used as components of water and wastewater systems include diesel, electric and solar-powered bore or rainwater pumps, domestic-sized rainwater tanks (steel or plastic, as shown in Figure 12), larger water storage tanks (typically steel or concrete), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping for water distribution (Figure 12) and septic tanks. Windmills were also used for water pumping from bores. Float switches and ball valves are used for level detection. Solar hot water systems were commonly used. Power was typically sourced from diesel generators where a connection to the grid was not available.

Figure 12. PVC piping and rainwater tanks at one site in Central Australia

Operation and maintenance of the water system was the responsibility of the farm or site manager at the two farms and roadhouse visited. At the Indigenous communities, the Essential Services Operator (ESO) was responsible for maintenance and operation in conjunction with the community members.

Water sources utilised included rainwater, bore water, dam water (from rivers when in flow) and spring water. Typically rainwater tanks were used for drinking water and bores / dams for other purposes. Rainwater tanks were not always reliable and trucking potable water can be the only option if rainfall is inadequate.

Water quality was also noted as a shortcoming of existing systems at some sites.

Hardness and salinity were the most commonly mentioned issues, which affect both palatability of water for human consumption and the service life of technologies used.

Corrosion of fittings and build-ups of salts were a common problem, and can be seen in Figure 13 and Figure 14. The environmental conditions in which water and wastewater systems must operate are hot, often dusty, and sometimes extremely wet (for short periods of the year). There are high levels of ultraviolet radiation. Equipment is also susceptible to attack from ants, birds and stock (on farms).

Table 21. Site Findings from Pre-Scoping Site Population Water Use


Water system Bore water


Quality & Quantity Shortfalls Responsibility for system Grape Farm Up to 50 people at

harvest time for 6-8 weeks, other-wise 5-7 people.

Grape irrigation Domestic use4

3 x 10kL rainwater tanks Drip irrigation system for grapevines. 5 irrigation, 1 domestic bore

750 mg/L High hardness and nitrates in bore water not ideal for grapes.

Rainwater for drinking is fine.

Quantity for all sources is OK.

Farm manager

Cattle farm Up to 20 people during cattle mustering, other-wise around 5 people.

Stock water Domestic use

3 rainwater tanks 2 water storage tanks 5 dams

30 bores for stock water &

domestic use.

4,800 mg/L One bore is on the limit of quality acceptability for stock.

Rainwater for drinking is fine.

Quantity is generally OK, but rainfall can be concentrated at one time of the year. The main dam is not always full.

Farm manager

Roadhouse 6 staff and up to 40 guests, depending on the season

Domestic use Commercial use:

food preparation, cleaning,

swimming pool &

vehicle use.

Multiple rainwater tanks, storage tanks, piping.

3 bores for roadhouse &

accommodation, 1 for swimming pool.

2,200 mg/L Bore water is unpalatable for guests, so rain water is supplied.

Quantity is not always adequate.

The bores have low flows and can run out. Lack of rainfall means water is trucked at times.

Roadhouse manager

Table 21 (continued). Site Findings from Pre-Scoping Site Population Water Use


Water system Bore water


Quality & Quantity Shortfalls Responsibility for system Indigenous

Community 1

Usually 20 residents, can fluctuate due to cultural reasons, holidays etc.

Domestic use Storage tank (20kL) for community needs.

2 bores for community water supply.

1,350 mg/L Quality is OK.

Quantity is also acceptable, as long as the second bore is turned on at night when the solar bore switches off.

Community council, ESO and community members Indigenous

Community 2

40-50 people on a fairly constant basis

Domestic use 1 rainwater tank for drinking water.

1 bore for other water needs.

1,300 mg/L Residents complain about water quality when showering.

Have to have water trucked when rainfall is inadequate.

Community council, ESO and community members Town 3,500 permanent

population plus up to 1,000 tourists in season

Domestic use Garden watering

1 bore (high salinity) provides water for 2 reverse osmosis plants which purify water from for drinking.

High sal. bore 15,600 mg/L Low sal. bore 4,100 mg/L

Quality after RO is excellent.

2nd RO plant installed 3 years ago to deal with quantity short-falls, the situation now is OK.

Water Supply Dept. of District Council (mana-ger plus 4 staff).

Figure 13. Diesel powered bore pump; corrosion of bore housing

Figure 14. Salt build-up on tap and showerhead

In terms of the economics of water systems, there were significant differences. For the two farms and roadhouse site, the costs of installing, operating and maintaining water and wastewater systems must be covered by revenue from the site operations. The water supply system is part of the critical infrastructure required to run the business, be it a roadhouse or a farm. At the two Indigenous communities, the costs of the system are paid for by the community council responsible for the settlement. These councils receive income from rent payments from residents which goes towards paying for water and wastewater systems. Residents did not pay on a ‘user pays’ basis (i.e. per kilolitre of water used) but do contribute to the costs of systems via their rent payments.

Licensing for bores is overseen by the NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts (NRETA). When a bore license is issued a water quality and bore capacity test is carried out. The water quality test states whether or not the water

meets the ADWG for certain parameters. An example is shown in Figure 15. The bore capacity test determines the rate at which the bore can be pumped.

Figure 15. Example of statement of bore issued from initial water quality analysis

Water testing was carried out for the roadhouse once per year, for total coliforms, faecal coliforms and E. coli. At other sites water quality testing did not appear to be regularly carried out.

There was significant variability in the remote settlement water systems observed in the pre-scoping study, in terms of social, environmental, economic, institutional and technical factors. However the common factors which emerged were as follows:

• The need for systems to serve variable populations

• Requirements for different quality of water for different purposes within single sites

• Systems needed to be within the economic constraints of the site to set up, operate and maintain.

• The need to comply with regulation where it applies

• The need for robust equipment for which maintenance support is locally available.

These scoping results suggested that the ability to treat brackish groundwater to a potable standard using some form of treatment AND the ability to treat and re-use wastewater could both be beneficial in remote Central Australian sites. They also suggest that there are differences between different types of settlements in Central Australia that may influence their perceptions of sustainability and sustainable technologies. These were explored in greater detail in the full scoping study.

4.1.2 4.1.2 4.1.2

4.1.2 Interview and Site Note Analysis Interview and Site Note Analysis Interview and Site Note Analysis Interview and Site Note Analysis

There were a total of 10 responses from the site visits and expert interviews carried out for the pre-scoping study. These were coded in NVivo 8 (QSR International 2008), with references to particular topics being treated as a ‘node’. There were 82 nodes in total, listed in Table 22 over the page.

These individual nodes were then categorised on the basis of the five dimensional model of sustainability (Mukherjee & van Wijk 2003). Economic, environmental, institutional, social and technical ‘parent nodes’ were created, and the ‘child nodes’

from Table 22 were placed under the appropriate parent node in a hierarchical structure.

Additional parent nodes were required, due to the topics addressed in the site and expert discussions and the responses received. The additional parent nodes created were to collate responses about:

• Water and power technologies

• Water quality

• User groups

Table 22. List of Nodes mentioned in Pre-Scoping Study

ADWG independent solar power

attitudes to technology institutional capacity solar pumps Bushlight institutional responsibility spares available community capacity knowledge database storage tank

community councils maintenance support for system

community disharmony needs sustainable groundwater yield

community participation nitrates sustainable livelihoods

community support outstations water TDS

contractors palatability technology choice

costs of technology pastoral and farmers technology design cultural aspects of water peer opinions of water use technology interface demand management perceptions of water quality training

demonstration piping turkey nest dam

diesel generator population mobility understanding of technologies diesel pumps preference for rainwater understanding of water system differences between communities rainwater tanks user involvement in planning

equity regulation of water user pays

ESOs relationship building water consumption

fit for purpose reliability water purification general

general comments on RO resource agencies water quality general government funding RO maintenance water quality testing government policy approaches roadhouses water recycling gravity fed tanks robustness of technology water shortages

grid self management water source

groundwater quality changes septic tanks water trucking

groundwater running out simple water use practices

hardness solar bores

health solar hot water

The number of respondents (referred to ‘sources’ in NVivo) who mentioned a parent node and the number of comments that parent node received are shown in Figure 16.

This table gives a preliminary indication of what was important to respondents but also reflects the questions they were asked about water systems, as described in 3.1.1.

Not surprisingly – given that people were asked to list the technologies used in the provision of water and power at their sites – water and power technologies were the most frequently mentioned item. Eight people referred to specific technologies, with a total of 41 references. Rainwater tanks were talked about most often.

Frequency of References by Category

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45

Water/Power Techs Technical

Social Institutional

Environm ental

Water Quality Economic

User Groups Category

No of References

Figure 16. Frequency of references to different categories

Nine people spoke about the technical aspects of water systems for a total of 38 references. Maintenance was the most frequently mentioned node. All respondents mentioned social aspects of water systems for a total of 36 references. There were a large number of nodes in the social category, indicative of the large spread of social aspects of water systems which were spoken about. Water use practices and community capacity to run their own water systems were the most frequently mentioned nodes.

All respondents also mentioned institutional aspects of water systems. Responsibility for provision of water was the most frequently mentioned node. Respondents were often asked about this directly. Discussion Discussion Discussion Discussion

The node analysis of the responses to the pre-scoping study largely reflects the nature of the questions asked at each site and of the expert respondents. The main purpose of the analysis at the pre-scoping stage was to start developing a node framework for the more detailed results from the full scoping study. It is important to note that the responses at this stage could be categorised according to the five dimensions of sustainability, with

the addition of extra parent nodes for specific comments about technologies, aspects of water quality or user groups.

4.2 4.2 4.2

4.2 Sco Sco Sco Scoping Study ping Study ping Study ping Study

As mentioned in Chapter 3, the results of the full scoping study are presented here by the sustainability dimension (parent node) to which they relate: economic, environmental, institutional, social or technical sustainability of water systems. The results are categorised by the group to which the respondent belonged: users representing an Indigenous Community (EHWs and ESOs); users from roadhouses;

users from farms or experts. Brief extracts from the transcripts are included where they are considered to make a pertinent point relating to a dimension of sustainability in water systems.

The results are not presented by individual node because the purpose of this stage is to build a holistic picture of sustainable water systems in remote Australia. The more detailed focus on particular indicators comes in the next stage of the research.

4.2.1 4.2.1 4.2.1

4.2.1 Economic Sustainability Economic Sustainability Economic Sustainability Economic Sustainability

The results relating to economic sustainability include any mention of costs of water systems – initial or ongoing; how systems are funded; sources of funding and so on. Indigenous Communities Indigenous Communities Indigenous Communities Indigenous Communities

For Indigenous communities who are served by PWC, there was not a lot of discussion about costs because they are not shared by the community. However where the community (through a local council) is responsible for funding water supply then having contractors come in to fix equipment can be very expensive, as evidenced by the exchange in Box 1 from the focus group:

Box 1. Excerpt from EHW focus group (I = interviewer, F = facilitator)

At the two outstations visited costs are covered by the community council or resource agency involved, with the exception of fuel for the second bore at one site. There is an indirect contribution through rent payments which come out of Centrelink allowances.

Bottled water can be purchased in some communities and is, indicating people are willing to pay for water they prefer. The reasons for purchase (taste / status / health) are not clear.

The drivers of sustainable systems which were mentioned by these respondents were the availability of ongoing NT Government funding for PWC-serviced communities and grants for infrastructure and operating costs from Commonwealth Government for outstations. The purchase of bottled water in communities suggests there may be some willingness to pay for improved quality Roadhouses Roadhouses Roadhouses Roadhouses

For the roadhouse operators interviewed, rising fuel prices were a concern both in terms of increased operational costs (e.g. diesel for generators, costs of supplies) and reductions in income from tourism. Capital investment and ongoing costs for water and power systems need to be affordable (in terms of business income) to justify new technology purchases. They would need to deliver savings over their lifetime to justify expenditure.

I: But is it expensive to get someone from Darwin?

R3: Oh yeah that what community talk about always in the meeting, yeah.

F: You’re on the council so you know, eh, it costs you six hundred bucks for one person to fly out, whether he does anything or not, it’s six hundred dollars.

R3: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

R1: Costs the council a lot of money to get someone, fly someone from Darwin. Within the community it doesn’t cost much to fix it up for ourselves.

Where specific treatment technologies (such as RO) were discussed they were considered by respondents to be ‘too expensive’, as shown in Box 2.

Box 2. Roadhouse operator talking about reverse osmosis

The drivers of sustainable systems which were mentioned by these respondents were the affordability of capital and ongoing costs, and the time taken to recoup investment in new technologies. Farmers Farmers Farmers Farmers

Again, the rising price of fuel (diesel) was a commonly mentioned concern, even though as primary producers all respondents would be eligible for a rebate. Subsidies were mentioned for a number of items – solar pumps & bores, rainwater tanks in addition to the diesel subsidy. Two farm sites visited were connected to Power and Water power supplies, so they pay town rates for water despite their remoteness and the higher cost of provision. This is a Northern Territory Government policy.

Sinking new bores is expensive but an accepted part of the business. New technologies have to be more economical than the old ones they replaced. When contemplating new technologies farmers must also consider the investment already made in existing technologies – refurbishment versus replacement. People may be willing to pay more to maintain quality of life, as evidenced by the comments in Box 3 relating to the prospect of switching from a diesel generator to solar power.

We’ve got automatic changeover technology there to change our machines between the three generators depending on the voltage load. That was again a huge investment so … ah … there is technology that I have looked at but the capital investment and the running cost would place us in a dangerous situation for the viability of our operation. If there was cheap technology that was not dear to buy and not dear to run, we would have a much better chance of considering things like that and of course we would love to improve our water quality by … ah … you know softening and things like that.

The economic drivers of sustainability mentioned by respondents were the ongoing diesel fuel rebate for primary producers, business income covering capital and operational costs of running water system and the costs of technologies.

Box 3. Excerpt from interview with farmer Experts Experts Experts Experts

Expert respondents raised many points in relation to the economics of small water systems in the Northern Territory. In terms of the economics of natural resource management, it was noted by a number of respondents that drillers must supply a sample for every bore but NT Water Resources can no longer afford to have it tested (due to a lack funding). This impacts their ability to manage groundwater and maintain a database of water quality results for water management. Additionally, the NT Water Resources Dept has no charges for licenses, permits or advice. This means there is no source of funds to regulate issues such as over-extraction or use of water for unlicensed purposes.

Many comments related to the economics of water provision in remote Indigenous communities, and in particular the spending of money on unsuitable infrastructure and without many checks. People in FaCSIA who grant funds might have no idea about technical matters, but might have granted funds for inappropriate technologies for good reasons (such as equity), as reported in Box 4.

… Our standard of living at the moment’s pretty comfortable, and we’re quite enjoying split system air conditioners and dishwashers and things like that. And I don’t know whether we could get a solar set-up that could keep that going. Cos apparently they can run swampies [evaporative air-conditioners]

really well but they can’t run these split systems. They draw too much power and you’d have the engine going anyway. So I don’t know...

Box 4. Excerpt from interview with expert

The primary and most reliable source of recurrent and capital funding for resource agencies was seen by experts to be FaCSIA. Some experts commented that an expectation exists in Indigenous communities that government will provide, regardless of the cost. Others believed that some Indigenous communities are keen to find jobs / livelihoods related to water management.

Many experts commented on the need for water systems to be able to accommodate cultural traditions. Technology implementation can require site-specific expertise, which is hard to retain and often too expensive to get for small communities. The costs of service provision are very high for small councils, which is why there is a move towards regional councils. Resource centres have limited funds to overcome water quality issues. If money becomes available (from sources other than the NT Government), treatment might go ahead. One respondent described the situation in an Indigenous community as follows:

Box 5. Expert respondent describing water systems seen

… I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum where there’s been hundreds of thousands of dollars spent over a ten year period and you can see all the relics of that money, of what that money was spent on, and at the end of the day people are using a little Onga firefighter pump, worth about $250-$400, and they’ve got a lump of ag pipe, poly pipe, down into a soak, um that gets dug out and that’s all you know tannin-y sort of thing, and it’s a hole about you know, maybe a width and a half of this table, and about the same wide, big square, just dug out with a shovel, full of leaves, and I mean that, you know, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of infrastructure sitting around, and they’re using about two hundred and fifty dollars worth of pumping and stuff so in terms of ... I mean that system’s you know, not necessarily meeting their needs either …

I see the grants process being implemented every day and people who have absolutely no technical understanding about anything granting um funds for capital items that are completely unnecessary.