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Decentralised Wastewater Treatment

With recent advances in thinking on the sustainability of the urban water cycle, decentralised systems are being installed and operated to deliver wastewater services close to the point of generation, and include peri-urban dwellings,high rise buildings, ecovillages, urban developments, tourist facilities and commercial businesses (e.g. service stations, wineries, resorts and caravan parks).

In this course you will learn about the characteristics of decentralised wastewater, and the importance of mass balance of nutrients, water and salinity.  Types of decentralised technologies will be discussed in detail, and illustrated with case studies.  Other important aspects that will be covered include national and state based guidelines and regulations, disinfection of effluent for various safe end uses, and the environmentally sustainable release of effluent at a catchment scale.

The 18hr course will be taught by leading industry professionals engaged in the design, assessment and construction of decentralised wastewater systems, as well as researchers who specialise in process understanding, health risks and sustainability of wastewater systems.  The course will be led and facilitated by Ted Gardner.

Issues addressed


  • Characteristics of decentralised wastewater, including chemical and biological composition and flow fluctuations
  • Mass balance principles (nutrients, water, salinity) applied to treatment and effluent reuse and their application to calculating a sustainable loading rate to soil
  • Overview of decentralised systems technologies:
    • Septic systems
    • Mechanical aeration
    • Sand filters
    • Membranes
    • Wetlands
    • Ion exchange
    • Alternative approaches
  • Regulations that govern the approval, management and inspection protocols of wastewater systems
  • Soils – what are their important characteristics for on site effluent disposal and how should they be measured. Focus is on texture, structure and permeability, as outlined in AS/NZS 1547
  • Septic trench absorption systems – how hydrogeochemistry can explain the reduction in BOD, nutrients, pathogens and saturated water flow


  • Greywater:
    • Composition and production volumes in domestic homes
    • Treatment and storage technologies for safe reuse
    • Potable water savings from potable substitution and/or amenity irrigation
  • Urine separating toilets:
    • Nutrient recovery implications
    • Beneficial reuse
    • Extended storage for sanitization
    • Human health risks
    • Cost effectiveness and social acceptance
  • Disinfection of treated effluent:
    • Chemical and UV methods
    • Use and utility of indicator organisms such as E.coli
    • Pathogens of concern including bacteria, viruses and protozoans
    • Health risk assessment using quantitative methods based on ingested dose and dose response
  • Application of wastewater systems at a building to neighbor scale
  • Integration of treatment technologies (e.g. septic tank + pumped sewer + ion exchange)
  • Case study examples including cluster scale developments, island resorts, caravan parks, wineries and the STED systems of South Australia


  • Management of decentralised systems including examples of success and failure.
  • Sustainability of decentralised systems at a catchment scale:
    • Auditing on site systems
    • Methods to estimate risks of off site export including simple geo-referenced mass balance models
    • Experimental methods, both chemical and biological, to measure off site export
    • Workshop – Sustainable effluent loading rates: Mass balance principles learned in the course will be used to calculate a sustainable effluent loading rate to soil following various types of pretreatment to reduce nutrient concentration. The scenario is an eco resort on an environmentally sensitive island which is considering a range of treatment technologies. The outcome will be assessed from the perspectives of a regulator, consultant and developer.

What do you get

  • Access to several leading Australian practitioners in decentralised wastewater treatment systems
  • An excellent introduction to decentralised wastewater treatment principles, technology and the associated regulations
  • Core skills and tools to take back to your workplace which will enable you to specify, evaluate and audit decentralised wastewater systems
  • Course notes and resource material
  • Detailed workshop problem sessions based on real case study material

Who should attend

This course is designed for water industry professionals, engineers, urban planners, environmental consultants and regulators who are involved with the design, installation, operation, appraisal or regulation of decentralised systems.

This course is not currently scheduled for a future event

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