Melbourne Water is investing $711 million into transforming the Western Treatment Plant into a state-of-the-art facility that will meet the city’s sewerage needs in the decades to come, whilst helping to reduce greenhouse emissions. 

The all-new Resource Recovery and Re-Use Complex is set to enhance the resilience of the sewerage system, advance resource recovery and assist in Melbourne Water’s path to net zero by improving the site’s solids treatment process. 

Melbourne Water Managing Director, Dr Nerina Di Lorenzo, said that the Resource Recovery and Re-Use Complex is a major milestone in the transformation of the Western Treatment Plant and will enable rapid evolution of the site to meet the needs of the next decade and beyond. 

“The transition to environmentally sustainable sewage treatment will deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, help us to produce more renewable energy and is a step change in our resource recovery ability at the Western Treatment Plant, supporting Victoria’s Circular Economy,” Dr Di Lorenzo said. 

Modernising the way Melbourne Water treats incoming sewage and returning the existing lagoon-based assets at the plant to a more sustainable mode of operation, the Resource Recovery and Re-Use Complex consists of four projects that will introduce: 

  • New preliminary and primary treatment processes to divert raw sewage away from the overloaded anaerobic lagoons, reducing the frequency of odour intensive maintenance works
  • Improved solids handling and anaerobic digestion processes to divert sludge away from the overloaded aerated ponds, capturing carbon and improving safety
  • A new receiving facility to receive and treat tankered waste from customers to manage the risk to the environment and fulfil Melbourne Water’s obligations under the Environmental Protection Act
  • A new liquid food waste facility to receive waste from industrial customers for co-digestion, which will generate renewable energy

The project will improve the treatment capacity of the Western Treatment Plant, which treats over 60 per cent of Melbourne’s sewage. Currently managing 200 billion litres of sewage a year, capacity will be increased by almost 50 per cent, ensuring Melbourne Water continues to service Melbourne – a city projected to double in population by 2050. 

As well as improving delivery efficiency, the bundling of the four projects has aided technical innovation. Sustainably modernising the way incoming sewage is treated, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better integrate liquid food waste, and enhance the site’s methane gas production to create renewable energy.  

Construction of the project is set to be undertaken in a joint partnership initiative between Melbourne Water and John Holland Group, which is expected to take three years to complete and will be fully operational in 2029. 

Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing, said that innovation and efficiency in wastewater treatment has enabled Victoria to lead in adaptation to climate change, circular economy and delivering large-scale improvements to liveability. 

“Better wastewater treatment means we’re also well-equipped to manage the challenges of population growth.”

Member for Werribee, Tim Pallas, said that this crucial investment in modernising wastewater treatment in Melbourne’s West will not only future-proof the health and sanitation needs of Melburnians but underscores a commitment to net zero emissions by 2045 – ensuring a sustainable climate-resilient future for all Victorians.

Featured image: Turning the first sod of Melbourne Water’s Resource Recovery and Re-Use Complex at the Western Treatment Plant. Image credit: Melbourne Water. 

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