Why do residential recycled water schemes fail? A comprehensive review of risk factors and impact on objectives

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West, Camilla
Kenway, Steven
Hassall, Maureen
Yuan, Zhiguo
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In Australia, recycled water schemes have been implemented in residential developments to contribute to sustainable urban development, improve water supply security and reduce pollutant discharges to the environment. A proportion of these schemes, however, have been decommissioned well before the end of their design life which raises questions about the adequacy of the risk assessment and management practices adopted for recycled water schemes. Through a detailed literature review, an investigation of 21 residential recycled water schemes and in-depth interviews with nine scheme stakeholders, we identified 34 risk factors arising from six sources which have the potential to impact the long-term viability of residential recycled water schemes. Of the 34 risk factors identified, 17 were reported to have occurred during the development and implementation of the 21 schemes investigated. The overall risk rating of the 17 factors was qualitatively defined on the basis of the likelihood of occurrence and the impact of the risk factors on the scheme objectives. The outcomes of the assessment indicate that the critical risks to the long-term viability of residential recycled water schemes are 1. unanticipated operational costs, 2. legal and contractual arrangements, 3. regulatory requirements and approval process and 4. customer complaints and expectations not met. To date, public health risks associated with the provision of recycled water have been of primary concern, though the outcomes of this study indicate that the impact to public health has been low. Evidently there is a need for improved assessment and management practices which address the range of critical risk factors, in addition to the routine consideration of public health risks.

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Water Research
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West, C; Kenway, S; Hassall, M; Yuan, Z, Why do residential recycled water schemes fail? A comprehensive review of risk factors and impact on objectives, Water Research, 2016, 102, pp. 271-281