Twenty years ago, long before sustainability was popular, our vision was to find a way to harvest Queensland’s abundant rainfalls and uncouple our business from Brisbane’s water supply.

Water tanks on siteWater tanks on site On the 20th anniversary of water recycling at Nursery Traders we achieved the goal of saving 500 million litres of potable water by World Water Day 2012.

Today on a site that would otherwise use approximately 68,000,000 litres of potable water annually, our total water savings reached 66,240,000 litres in 2010 and 65,650,000 litres in 2011. That’s the equivalent of more than 1200 individuals’ annual water consumption—taking water savings to an unprecedented 98% and 97% respectively.

Moreover, this achievement represented a 62% drop in potable water use compared to the previous two years. All told we have decreased potable water use from 54 megalitres in 2000 to 2.3 megalitres in 2011—a 97% saving achieved while increasing our irrigated area by 31%.

Reaching 98% potable water savings, there are many months where we use no potable water to irrigate our entire 12,000 square metre nursery.

Achieving this goal wasn’t easy. It is a direct result of persistence, innovation, determination and a process of continuous improvement all supported by daily monitoring, extensive on-going analysis, measurement and review.

We have delivered the lion’s share of these pioneering sustainability projects with no government or industry funding—committing an unprecedented 30% of all capital expenditure over the past decade to sustainability projects. Here’s how we did it.

1992 Stage 1 delivered our purpose-built facility 3500m2—incorporating water recycling infrastructure into the design Stage 1 - Water recycling infrastructureStage 1 - Water recycling infrastructure 1999 Stage 2 expanding water recycling, water capture and filtration infrastructure—including sand filtration and four 35,000 litre storage tanks, reaching total capacity 142,000 litres Stage 2 - Four storage tanksStage 2 - Four storage tanks
2002 Stage 3 enhanced rain collection methods with underground catchment tanks, a chamber to divert storm-water from car parks and buildings, filtration, tank control infrastructure, silt bins and grass swales taking our collection capacity to 227,000 litres. This also included an EPA demonstration project to showcase to industry the potential of recycled water use
The works beginThe works begin Delivering the underground water tankDelivering the underground water tank Placing the underground water tannkPlacing the underground water tannk Installing plumbing and piping for the new tankInstalling plumbing and piping for the new tank The finished product - tank is undergroundThe finished product - tank is underground

As part of this stage we also:

  • grouped plants by similar water use
  • installed and operated sprinklers to increase water droplet size at optimal water pressure
  • installed drip irrigation and capillary matting
  • monitored water use daily
  • constructed new areas with underground drainage for collection and re-use
  • developed/cultivated a workplace culture focused on minimising water use and maximising water recycling.

2008 Stage 4
 advanced our water recycling storm-water harvesting methods and infrastructure—making use of every capture surface including 3200 m2 of roof area, 4200 m2 of concrete pathways, and 3500 m2 of roadways and parking. Four additional above-ground tanks and pumping, piping and switching equipment were commissioned, designed to maximise stormwater harvesting together with optimising gravity to minimise power use. On completion, total on-site storage was 698,000 litres and we had achieved a decrease in potable water use of 93% per hectare

Tanks 8, 9 and 10 under constructionTanks 8, 9 and 10 under constructionTanks 8, 9 and 10 completedTanks 8, 9 and 10 completed192,000 litre tank, completed and ready to collect storm water192,000 litre tank, completed and ready to collect storm water

2010 Stage 5
. Involved installing an on-site weather station to monitor rainfall, humidity, solar radiation, evapotranspiration and wind speed each hour automatically adjust the irrigation cycle. In addition a new chlorine storage and injection system improved filter efficiency and—along with new sand filters and other measures—tripled our rate of water treatment while reducing energy consumption by around 80%. We achieved total water self-sufficiency by using no potable water in irrigating our entire nursery of more than 12,000 m2 in March, May, August, September, October and December of 2010.

On-site weather stationOn-site weather stationChlorine storage and injection systemChlorine storage and injection system

Our target now is to be a zero footprint business by end of 2025—zero water, zero power and zero waste.