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Mitchelton Wines wins grant to save 20 million litres of water

Central Victorian wine producer Mitchelton Wine’s upgrades to its waste water treatment system will result in a 15% reduction of its total annual irrigation volume, an estimated saving of 20 million litres of water per annum.

The upgrade is being partially supported through a $45,000 grant, a part of the $2 billion Australian Government Water Fund set up to encourage communities and businesses to adopt water savings initiatives throughout drought-affected areas Australia-wide. The total cost of the project will be $500,000.

According to viticulturist John Beresford, now, more then ever, communities and businesses need to work together to come up with sustainable management strategies for that most precious of natural resources, water.

“At Mitchelton, we view ourselves as custodians of the land. With the Goulburn River – Victoria’s largest tributary to the Murray River system – currently under threat of drought, a new waste water management system has been developed to help the winery and the river deal with its water needs.”

From more than 4,500 applications nationally for round 2 of funding Mitchelton Wines is one of the few wineries across Australia, and the only Victorian winery, to be granted funding in 2006.

In 2006, the Australian wine industry crushed a total of 1.9 million tonnes of grapes, with the average water use being five kilo-litres per tonne. Currently, with drought conditions unabated, an estimated total of 9,500 million litres is used in grape processing and wine production annually.

There is an immediate and urgent need for Australian wineries to be incorporating environmentally sustainable systems for the treatment and re-use of wastewater. Subsequently, there is now a growing focus within the wine industry to invest in measures to responsibly deal with water issues. In recognising the need for action, Mitchelton worked closely in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Authority Victoria (NE region) and the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority with community engagement from the Shire of Strathbogie and the Nagambie Landcare Group.

“We hope that the new wastewater treatment project to be implemented at Mitchelton will provide a case study for other wineries and related sectors that may wish to adopt a similar strategy in their waste management programs. Accordingly, we will be systematically and regularly monitoring the program and its performance.”

The wastewater generated through Mitchelton’s winery and domestic facilities undergoes initial treatment via a solar-powered aeration unit. Water is then gravity fed to a series of wetlands channels planted with locally-grown native reed species. These plants assist in assimilating high nutrient loads as well as filtering solids. After passing through a series of sand and rock filters, the treated water is stored in a holding reservoir and will be available for irrigation in the Mitchelton Vineyard. The system which allows for production expansion will be fully functional for the 2007 vintage.

Considerable benefits for the local community are expected, including significantly lower volume requirements from the Goulburn River for irrigation, and regeneration of wetland habitats for local common and threatened waterbirds and frogs.

“Our goal at Mitchelton is always to work respectfully and harmoniously with the environment to develop a true understanding of the estate, thereby ensuring our wines are truly expressive of this unique site.”



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