Stages of a MAR scheme

A series of stages have been developed to guide proponents and operators of proposed MAR schemes through concept design and implementation, and assist with understanding the regulatory requirements of each stage.

These stages are based on the risk management framework outlined in the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling Volume 2 C MAR.

Stage One: Desktop study

For all schemes, other than domestic, a Stage One (desktop study) must be undertaken to determine if the scheme fits the criteria of a small or large scheme, if further information is required, any necessary investigations, and an indication of the scheme’s viability.

Stage Two: Investigation and assessment

Proponents of schemes other than low risk schemes identified in Stage One are required to proceed to a Stage Two risk assessment and gather further information to support their scheme. In most cases the information gaps and uncertainty will be detailed as a result of Stage One.

The likely steps include:

  • gathering outstanding data and information
  • undertaking a maximal risk assessment to determine hazards and evaluate risk
  • identifying and confirming performance of appropriate preventative measures
  • determining if the scheme can be operated at a low risk
  • preparing a draft risk management plan and lodging an application for assessment, either through a development application or Environment Protection Authority (EPA) works approval.

Proponents will be asked to provide documented evidence of the risk assessment process as part of an application for an EPA works approval or development approval, or Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) permit, depending on the amount and source of water to be drained.

Agencies including the EPA, DEWNR and the Department of Health may be called on to provide input into the assessment process. Successful completion of the risk assessment process will determine if the MAR scheme is worthy of a licence or permit, and is able to proceed to the next stage.

Note: Proponents and consultants are reminded that under Section 83A of the Environment Protection Act 1993, they must notify the EPA in writing as soon as reasonably practicable after becoming aware of any existence of site contamination at the site or in the vicinity of the site.

Stage Three: Construction, commissioning and validation

If the scheme is deemed low risk after assessment, the proponent can now proceed to Stage Three where construction, commissioning and validation are carried out.

Steps include:

  • finalising the risk management plan and operational management plan
  • validating preventative measures
  • finalising the regulatory process for the EPA licence to operate.

During Stage Three, developers must ensure that associated environmental issues - such as stormwater runoff, sediment, dust, noise and drilling spoils - are controlled so no adverse impacts are caused.

Stage Four: Operation and verification

If the preventative measures are validated to be effective and the scheme is confirmed to be able to operate at a low risk, the operator proceeds to Stage Four for operation and verification of the scheme. This includes:

  • operational management of the scheme to maintain low risk
  • compliance with the authorisation/permit including monitoring, auditing and reporting
  • response to monitoring, emergency incidents and remedial action if necessary.

MAR scheme licences will be managed by the EPA and permits by DEWNR, and appropriate compliance actions will be taken if necessary. 

Agencies including the EPA, DEWNR and the Department of Health may be called on to help manage relevant issues.

Stage Five: Decommissioning

Decommissioning will be required when a scheme has reached the end of its useful life, which will include:

  • testing the aquifer condition
  • remediating if necessary
  • decommissioning wells and removing infrastructure.

The EPA will oversee any site contamination issues. 

well construction permit is required to plug, drill, backfill or seal a well.