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Turning waste water into snow

By Justin Jenvey

Posted 11 September 2019

Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board (MHARMB) has a number of initiatives designed to protect and preserve our beautiful environmental resources, including the use of recycled water for snowmaking. MHARMB is now working towards having recycled water for snowmaking available earlier in the season. 

Hotham’s snowmaking capabilities are extensive with man-made snow generated each winter from water stored in the 30 megalitre (ML) Loch Dam. The reservoir is filled with water drawn from Swindlers Creek and Class A recycled water from MHARMB’s sewage treatment plant. Class A is the highest standard of recycled water and is used for irrigating food crops and recreational spaces such as parks and golf courses. It must meet strict EPA Victoria and Department of Human Services guidelines for quality.

Since being built in 2008 the waste water facility has undergone constant upgrades to improve recovery rates of Class A recycled water. This year has seen the installation of a new ultraviolet (UV) system which will help speed up the disinfection process and have recycled water ready for snowmaking earlier in winter. 

“There are a bunch of different developments we’re working towards to try and improve our Class A water capture and bring it on quicker,” MHARMB Waste Water Operations manager Orme Kewish said. 

“In the past our system really gets up and running by late July or early August because it takes a while for the temperature to come into the system and deal with an initial backlog of ammonia. Snowmaking starts for the season from the end of May and then June and July are the biggest months in terms of production, so by the time we get up and running snowmaking is winding down. 

“Part of the push to put the new UV unit in was so we can run slightly higher ammonia water which long-term means we can make more Class A water for snowmaking and earlier in the season.”

Commissioned late last month, the new UV unit isn’t fully operational yet but will be in full swing by the time the 2020 winter is here. In 2018, a total of 17ML of recycled Class A water was pumped to Loch Dam for snowmaking and firefighting if required, however not all raw inflows are treated onsite and leave as Class A. Around 80ML of Class C water is sent down to Dargo where it is treated further before being released into No Name Creek. 

It’s hoped the new UV system will mean Mount Hotham Skiing Company can reduce its reliance on its allowance to divert up to 500ML annually from Swindlers Creek.

“Snow making uses far more water then we will ever be able to provide but at peak season we’d try and put 400,000 to 500,000 litres into Loch Dam each day,” Orme said.

“The reason for the Class A was to basically try and recycle as much water as possible so that instead of taking water from one catchment and dumping it into another it is being reused and for snowmaking and then returning to the catchment it originally came from. 

“The upgrade of our UV unit was a fairly big project and I think it shows a commitment to want to make Class A water and do it as best we can long-term.”

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The reason for the Class A was to try and recycle as much water as possible so that...water is being reused for snowmaking and then returned to the catchment it originally came from

Orme Kewish