Management and re-use of treated winery wastewater (Part 3): Adelaide, Australia

by | Jul 1, 2019 | Winetech Technical, Viticulture research

Carolyn went to New Zealand and Australia to participate in a technical tour focussing on the management and re-use of treated winery wastewater, with particular reference to wine grape irrigation. This article focuses on visits in Adelaide. She reports …

Recently, the Western Cape experienced one of its worst droughts to date. Users were limited to 70 L of water per person per day and are currently limited to 105 L of water per day. Therefore, water is a precious, scarce resource. Approximately three years of good rainfall is needed to recover from the drought. Therefore, alternative sources of irrigation water for vineyards, e.g. using treated wastewaters, will become more important under the above-mentioned conditions or if climate change reduces long-term winter rainfall.


The geography and climate of Australia

Adelaide was founded in 1836 by Colonel William Light and is north of the Fleurieu Peninsula on the Adelaide Plains, between the Gulf St Vincent and the low-lying Mount Lofty Ranges. Adelaide has a Mediterranean climate with warm to hot dry summers and cool to mild winters. Mean temperatures are, on average, 29°C and 15°C in January and July, respectively. Most of the rainfall occurs in the winter with June being the wettest month.


Australian Wine Centre

The National Wine Centre was built in 2000 and is reminiscent of a barrel of wine (Picture 1). The National Wine Centre has a history wall (Picture 2) depicting the history of the Australian wine industry. When the First Fleet arrived in Sydney on 26 January 1788, Governor Philips planted seeds of grapes and rooted cuttings from South Africa. The Australians started research into grapevines in 1929.


PICTURE 1. The National Wine Centre of Australia reminds one of a wine barrel.


PICTURE 2. The wall depicting the history of the Australian wine industry.


The National Wine Centre also has some rows of grapevines (Picture 3), which are irrigated (Picture 4) in summer. The National Wine Centre is popular with tourists as it is located centrally in Adelaide and they can taste wines and enjoy lunch. One can also do accredited wine education courses at the Centre.


PICTURE 3. The rows of grapevines at the National Wine Centre of Australia. This Centre provides tourists with the opportunity to experience the wine industry in the city without having to go into the wine producing regions.


PICTURE 4. The grapevine rows at the National Wine Centre are irrigated during summer. Note the handy tap to flush the irrigation lines.


Anu Kumar, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water

Anu Kumar is located at CSIRO Land and Water at the Waite Campus in Urrbrae. There are a number of research institutions based at this campus. In particular, the Waite Campus is the hub of the South Australian wine industry in Adelaide and funders, researchers and educators are located in close proximity to each other (Picture 5). It was evident that bore water (Picture 6) and reclaimed water (Picture 7) were being used for irrigation on the campus.


PICTURE 5. Key role players in the South Australian wine industry are located in close proximity to each other. Note the koala bear sign in the background.


PICTURE 6. Sign indicating the use of bore water at the Waite Campus in Adelaide.


PICTURE 7. Sign indicating the use of reclaimed water at the Waite Campus in Adelaide.


At this stage, Anu Kumar (Picture 8), who leads the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Team within the Environmental Contaminant Mitigation and Biotechnologies Program at CSIRO, is not doing as much work with winery wastewater as in the past. However, the research group is still continuing with their long-term project investigating the use of winery wastewater for vineyard irrigation at Yalumba Winery in the Barossa Valley. This project has already been conducted for seven years, so important long-term information is being generated. Although obtaining funding for research pertaining to winery wastewater is currently a challenge, there are exciting opportunities for research on fire fighting chemicals, using sewage water for golf course irrigation and wastewater from mines. A large component of the research that the group does is focused on tracking and identifying pollutants; isolating pollution sources; assessing impacts of aquatic and terrestrial pollution to ecosystems; developing cost-effective and robust monitoring systems; and developing water management guidelines and practices. The research group has a very comprehensive laboratory to do toxicology studies (Picture 9).


PICTURE 8. Anu Kumar and Carolyn Howell discussing the effects of irrigating grapevines with winery wastewater.


PICTURE 9. River muscles used to quantify pollutants in rivers.


Paul Grbin, Associate Professor in Oenology, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide

The meeting took place at the winery (Picture 10) of the University of Adelaide. Although the University currently has no research projects investigating the treatment of winery wastewater, there have been numerous projects in the past. Paul Grbin gave an overview of the most important studies to date. These include a survey which was conducted in Australia using four companies to look at microbes in the treatment of winery wastewater. There was a consistent group of organisms at the plants. Therefore, there was no diversity and the system did not peak efficiently. Raw winery wastewater was added into SBR and, over time, diversity increased. They investigated the C:N ratio on glycogen accumulating bacteria in aerobic systems. Paul Grbin indicated that a C:N ratio of 60:1 maintained diversity. The University also has plans to expand their winery in the near future. In that case, a wastewater treatment system will most probably be installed.


PICTURE 10. The experimental winery at the Waite Campus in Adelaide.


Mitch Laginestra and Edgar Johnson, Principal Engineer and Specialist Consultant: Water Efficiency, respectively, at GHD

GHD is a company operating in the global market sectors of water, energy and resources, environment, property and buildings, and transportation. The GHD offices are located on Victoria Square and two colleagues (Picture 11) attended the discussion and shared some interesting information regarding wastewater. In the Willunga Basin, McLaren Vale, there is a lot of recycling of municipal wastewater to vineyards, farms and trees. There are guidelines for different industries for management of the wastewater and irrigation. The recycled municipal wastewater is generally cheaper than clean water. A purple pipe system indicates the use of municipal wastewater for irrigation. Generally the public is aware of this. Aside from using municipal wastewater for irrigation of agricultural crops, DNA testing on municipal wastewater can also give an indication of areas where drugs are being used.


PICTURE 11. Edgar Johnson and Mitch Laginestra of GHD meeting with Carolyn Howell in Adelaide.


Closing remarks

Having a National Wine Centre in a city is beneficial to the wine industry as it provides tourists with the opportunity to experience the wine industry without necessarily having to go into the wine producing regions. In Australia, and South Africa, beneficial irrigation with wastewater is strived for. As such, the respective wine industries have supported research pertaining to the irrigation of vineyards with winery wastewater. The use of a purple pipe system indicates that municipal wastewater is being used for irrigation.



The South African Society for Enology and Viticulture (SASEV) for awarding the prize for the best article in 2014. Winetech for funding of the prize for best article in the SAJEV journal. Funding for the technical tour was also provided by the Local IWA Organising Committee. The ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij for the opportunity to undertake the technical tour. All my hosts in Australia who showed exceptional hospitality and showed such an interest in the South African wine industry.


– For more information, contact Carolyn Howell at


Article Archives

Search for more articles

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Stay current with our monthly editions

Share This
Shopping cart
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping