The Sewerage and Water Environmental Advisory Panel (SWEAP) is an expert group comprised of representatives from water service providers across Queensland. The panel was originally convened as the ERA 63 Expert Panel in 2012 to provide a forum for discussion and consultation on environmental matters relating to urban sewage and water management. Since then the group has been meeting regularly to provide advice on environmental management and regulation and to foster collaboration on joint submissions to the Queensland Government on policy issues.

In late 2019 a strategic planning session was held on the suggestion of  the panel. At the session, it was clear that members were interested in being a driving force for avoiding reactive environmental management towards a focus on stronger industry leadership. Despite representation from a diverse range of utility types and sizes with varying internal policy positions, participants agreed on a common set of objectives and priorities for the group to consider, as follows:

  • Foster partnership and industry leadership towards a whole-of-catchment management approach (rather than focus on individual point sources).
  • Seek Smart Regulation, flexibility and self-responsibility (rather than a 1990s-style compliance framework and laboured communication between Regulators and utilities).
  • Challenge perverse outcomes from regulation and policy (e.g. any unbalanced response to contaminants).
  • Predict and proactively respond to pressures on cost to serve.
  • Foster innovation

Concern about contamination from legacy and emerging chemicals is high and likely to grow as community and regulator expectations continue to increase in parallel with the ability to detect trace contaminants. The capacity of individual service providers to respond to these increasing demands is becoming constrained. In recognition of these items a Standing Group was formed that can convene rapidly to deal with issues around contaminants of emerging concern. The group’s function is to rapidly collate and share information from across the sector and beyond to help inform the whole sector. It is formed only when needed and at the request of SWEAP members.

Members also asked that expressions of interest be sought for developing a consortium of water utilities to participate in national industry research and innovation about contaminants of emerging concern. Individually, most councils do not have the resources to maintain membership in national research organisations or to influence the direction of research. An outcome of this collaboration was the qldwater Consortium for Research and Advocacy on Emerging Contaminants (qCRAC).

Report: Analysis of current recycled water policy and regulatory framework in Queensland

Analysis of current recycled water policy and regulatory framework in Queensland - Release Date 30-Jun-2023: - Prepared by Dr Lynne Powell, this report contains a summary of the current regulatory and policy framework for recycled water from municipal sewage treatment plants in Queensland and includes findings from interviews with water service providers that operate recycled water schemes of varying complexity; Queensland regulators; and comparisons to the interstate situation, namely for Victoria and South Australia. This report does not consider recycled water from other sources such as the gas industry or from stand-alone sewage treatment plants which tend to treat from industrial or high strength sources. The investigation was initiated by the qldwater Strategic Priorities Group (SPG) following an initial study by the qldwater Sewerage and Water Environmental Advisory Panel (SWEAP).

Discussion Paper: Aligning Definitions of Recycled Water in Queensland

SWEAP Recycled Water Discussion Paper - Release Date 15-Dec-2021: - This discussion paper was prepared by qldwater on behalf of SWEAP. It outlines regulation of recycled water in Queensland and recommends minor clarifications to often overlapping regulatory requirements for Water and Sewerage Service Providers. This alignment is needed both to improve management and reporting and to increase the likelihood of safe water recycling.The inconsistencies in definitions relevant to Queensland WSPs can be overcome without legislative change through adherence to the recommended interpretations and agreement on a common classification for intended uses as proposed.

Source Control Workshop

Source control for emerging contaminants is an area that the qldwater Consortium for Research and Advocacy on Contaminants (qCRAC) has targeted for future action. This is because for some contaminants, for which treatment processes are complex and potentially costly, the most effective control method may be to control the chemical at the source before it enters the wastewater system. Interest in this area prompted a Source Control workshop, jointly hosted by qCRAC and SWEAP. The workshop ran as a webinar on 21 October 2021 with six speakers providing a range of views on source control. Head to this page to learn more.

Biosolids Workshop

On 22 April 2021, qldwater convened two workshops dealing with contaminants of emerging concern (CEC). The first focused on treatment of biosolids to deal with CEC while the second, co-convened with the Department of Environment and Science (DES) examined the measurement of PFAS in biosolids to inform compliance with the End of Waste Code. Recordings of the workshops are available below.

Session 1: Understanding existing water sector activities in biosolids treatment and future opportunities.

Topics included:

  • Treating Biosolids in Northern Queensland (JCU)
  • Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource (ARC Centre)
  • Biosolids Gasification (Logan)
  • Options for Water Utilities (SE Water)
  • Biochar technology (RMIT)
  • Anaerobic Digestion and Thermal Treatment (UQ)
  • Modular Thermal Treatment (IQEnergy)
  • qCRAC Update (qldwater)

Session 2: Guidance on PFAS analysis for End of Waste Code.

Speakers / Topics included:

  • End of Waste Code (DES)
  • Estimation of PFAS in biosolids (UU)
  • Practical and operational considerations (Townsville, Unitywater, Arkwood, Gold Coast)
  • National Chemical Working Group update & QLD compliance issues (DES) followed by discussion on preferred analysis techniques and development of guidance on methodology and data requirements for EOW Code.

PFAS Study Advice

In the past year, several water and sewerage service providers have received a Notice to conduct or commission an environmental evaluation under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 specifically for PFAS. qldwater, using the resources within the qldwater Consortium for Research and Advocacy on Emerging Contaminants (qCRAC), has gathered information that may be of use to councils that receive an evaluation notice in the future. The Consortium has generously agreed that this information can be shared with members of qldwater.

PFAS Study Advice - Release Date 29-Apr-2021: -