Mt. Buller Makes Snow From Recycled Waste Water

Chris Boadle
Photo: Chris Shirvington

Mt Buller, Victoria's premier alpine resort, has marked a milestone today as recycled water from the resort's new Water Reuse system has been used for snowmaking for the first time.

The $3.43 million Water Reuse system was officially launched last winter. Since that time, it has undergone rigorous testing to ensure that the water it is treating satisfies the stringent standards of the Department of Human Services and Environmental Protection Authority. Having passed all testing requirements, the resort has now been able to capitalise on the colder winter conditions and use this water to produce snow for Mt Buller's ski field area.

"Mt Buller understands that it must act now to mitigate the effects of climate change," said Phil Nunn, CEO of the Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board (ARMB). "To ensure the longevity of the winter season and provide a more consistent level of snow coverage on the resort's most popular runs, it is essential that we have a large enough water supply to support extensive snowmaking, which is exactly what this project has afforded us.

"It has taken several years to see this initiative through from concept to implementation, so it is very satisfying to finally see snow made from our recycled water hit the slopes."

The Water Reuse infrastructure uses a disinfection system of UV irradiation, chlorination and ultrafiltration to purify the waste water and recycle up to 2 million litres of Class A water a day. Class A water is commonly used on human food crops, for irrigating public spaces such as parklands and golf courses, and for a number of other purposes. It is treated to a higher degree than most agricultural projects, and actually improves the quality of run-off that enters Mt Buller's surrounding areas and water ways such as the Howqua River.

The Water Reuse system is also monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that it produces a safe and consistent quality of water. It is also fitted with a fail-safe devise that means if anything within the system malfunctions, it automatically stops all operations to eliminate the possibility of untreated water being pumped into the snowmaking dam.

"The man-made snow that is being produced today looks exactly the same as any other snow," said Nunn. "It is the same colour and if it was to be ingested, it would not have any health implications. However, just like natural snow, eating snow is not recommended."

To further supplement the efforts of the Water Reuse system, the ARMB is also currently undertaking a feasibility study for an additional water storage facility, which would primarily be used to supplement snow making, and also provide back up for the Village potable supply and emergency fire fighting.

"While the Water Reuse system has enabled us to increase our snow making capacity by 30 per cent, it is important that we continue to look for ways to bolster our water supplies," said Nunn. "To this effect, we're also considering ways in which we can enhance our water storage capacity and reduce our water consumption in other areas to better support a sustainable winter tourism product."