Water saving has been on the radar for Armidale concrete and earthworks company Ducats for a number of years but current water restrictions have sped up its conservation efforts and brought remarkable results.
The second-generation business has taken steps including water recycling to reduce its water consumption by 60 to 70% – and much of the remainder is for drinking and domestic cleaning.
Since taking over as Directors of the family business, brothers Tom, Sam and Jack have implemented measures such as retention tanks and desilting practices to reuse water, and more water-efficient equipment.
“Our goal is to ultimately recapture all available water and to achieve 100% reuse of that water,” Tom said.
And that includes reusing the water more than once. As the water is repeatedly reused and its purity progressively declines, the brothers have adopted a sequenced system which directs it to activities that can accommodate lower water quality.
That sequence begins with activities such as concrete production, which demands relatively good water quality, and ends with road works and dust suppression that is required under operating conditions.
“We’ve achieved that reuse by implementing a series of retention tanks and ponds, which also help to remove sediment from the water,” Tom said.
Sam said the company was very conscious of the fact it was ranked 12th on Council’s list of the Armidale region’s highest water users.
“We were determined to move ourselves well down that list and, while we will see other businesses reduce their water use as well, we aim to remain well out of the top 20 once the rains return and the drought is over,” he said.
“Obviously these savings make good business sense for us, significantly reducing our water bills which previously were around $15,000 a quarter. But it’s also now about protecting the supplies for our home town and ensuring there is more water for other people and uses in Armidale.”
When water restrictions were implemented earlier this year and businesses faced the strong prospect of being without water for commercial activities, Ducats investigated options for its own ground water supplies and sunk a bore close to its Miller Street headquarters.
“With that supply in place, we are trying to be as independent as possible from the town water supply. We are getting pretty close to being completely independent,” Sam said.
“The bore and our recycling measures are putting us in a much better position now and will all be there when then next drought inevitably comes. It might be in five, 10 or 20 years’ time, but we will be ahead of the game.”
Ducats’ water saving measures have also included timer systems for sprinklers used to maintain necessary water levels in gravel for its concrete, so water is only applied during the most appropriate times and less is lost to evaporation.
The brothers have also invested in a high pressure agitator cleaner, substantially cutting the amount of water needed for the essential process of removing traces of concrete from their trucks before it sets.
Tom said: “It’s about avoiding a situation in which we have to shut down our operations during a drought but also improving our practices and the financial strength of our business.”