Borroloola Water Treatment Plant
Turning on the tap for remote communities
Borroloola is one of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities, located around 1000 kilometres from Darwin and almost eight hours by road from the nearest major town. Power and Water Corporation had long supplied the township’s population of 900 people with potable water sourced from groundwater bores. While it met Australian standards, the treated water’s corrosive tendencies unfortunately meant it was damaging infrastructure and threatening water quality and long-term security.
Providing reliable and safe water for Borroloola ‘s community into the future was an important priority for the NT Government utility. In 2012, it commenced investigating smart solutions to meet current and future demand and overcome the unprecedented geographical, climatic and logistical challenges of the location.
In 2017, a joint venture between SUEZ and Goodline was awarded the contract to design and construct the new $6.4 million Borroloola Water Treatment Plant (WTP), following the partnership’s successful delivery of Australia’s first biological filtration water treatment plant at Adelaide River two years prior.
From complexity to invention
The solution must factor in the tyranny of distance, a rocky and constrained site, and the effect of wet seasons, extreme heat and cyclones. It needed to be sensitive to the needs of the local community and ensure ongoing water supply during the upgrade. The team would be required to effectively unite multiple disciplines spanning process, electrical, mechanical, civil, automation and SCADA while being physically located across five locations between Borroloola and Sydney.
With no comparable previous projects to serve as a point of reference and myriad obstacles to overcome, innovation and creativity gave rise to a unique containerised solution: a ‘plug and produce’ system that offers rapid installation with minimal disruption to supply and mitigate the risk and uncertainty associated with the project.
The plant’s components fit mostly inside two specially fabricated and fitted out 40-foot shipping containers. Raw water from local bores is aerated through a specialised degassing tower to remove the majority of carbon dioxide then treated with calcium carbonate through GRP filters to prevent corrosion in the distribution system. It then passes through a new gas chlorination system before being distributed as high-quality drinking water to local homes and businesses.
On-site preparation works began in Borroloola in October 2017. The entire plant was assembled and dry-commissioned in Darwin for extensive testing before being transported via road train for final installation in August 2018. Officially opened two months later, the new Borroloola WTP secures the town’s water supply for the next three decades, with capacity to serve neighbouring town camps in the future.
Delivering on every level
The Borroloola water treatment system upgrade has been a categorical success. Since becoming fully operational in October 2018, the new plant has delivered on all expectations in terms of performance, reliability, operability, disinfection efficacy and operating costs. It has also withstood everything the harsh climate has presented, including wind gusts of up to 250 kilometres per hour during the destructive Tropical Cyclone Trevor in March 2019.
High engagement of local community and businesses throughout the process – and the positive impact of higher quality water on service delivery and resident satisfaction – has only added to the Borroloola WTP’s exceptional value for Power and Water Corporation.
Designed entirely through 3D modelling for rapid adaptation and integration of multi-disciplinary components, and delivered in a staged approach tailored to the individual challenges of the project, this clever solution offers a template for other communities. The technical innovation is readily transferable and endlessly flexible, heralding a compelling new perspective on delivering advanced water treatment capabilities for regional and remote Australia.
Leading the field in water innovation
The novel and effective solution for upgrading Borroloola’s water treatment system is widely considered a blueprint for the future of remote water treatment. In the Australian Water Association’s Northern Territory Awards in 2019, Power and Water Corporation, SUEZ and Goodline received the top honours for infrastructure, winning the Infrastructure Project Innovation Award.