Hunter Water turns 125 years old today, and the utility has its sights set on the future.
It will launch an annual innovation award, in partnership with the University of Newcastle, to encourage students and Hunter Water employees to come up with new ideas that could change management of water and wastewater as the region’s population continues to grow.
“Hunter Water has a proud history worth celebrating, however, our focus is very much on the future,” managing director Jim Bentley said.
“In 2017 and beyond, our role is more than making sure there are pipes in the ground for the extra 240,000 people expected to make the Hunter home over the next 30 years.
“Our role is to enable a growing, liveable, and environmentally sustainable Hunter region, where our communities have access to high quality and affordable services.”
Mr Bentley said Hunter Water had made many “bold and innovative decisions” during its 125-year history.
The Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board took control of the region’s water in 1892.
It came after declining water quality in Newcastle in the second half of the 19th Century lead to a death rate that was triple the norm.
By 1893 there were 3421 water connections and 220km in water mains supplying 17,105 people across the region – though Newcastle’s first sewerage system wasn’t introduced until 1907.
Today, that network has grown to cater for more than half a million people across the Hunter, with 242,277 water connections, almost 10,000km in water mains and sewer mains, and 230,618 sewer connections.
Through the decades, the organisation has been responsible for the construction of major pieces of infrastructure such as Chichester Dam, Grahamstown Dam.
It oversaw upgrades to the Burwood Beach Wastewater Treatment works in 1989, which led to Newcastle’s beaches being consistently rated among the state’s cleanest. It was also the first to water utility in Australia to charge people based on usage, which was unheard of when it was introduced in 1982 but is now standard practice across the nation.
“Reliable access to safe drinking water is something we all take for granted, however without it the Hunter could not have been able to grow to the thriving region it is today,” Mr Bentley said.