The production of artificial snow using current snowmaking technology requires large volumes of water. Forecasts for decreasing snowfalls in the future due to global climate change will increase the reliance of ski resorts worldwide on snowmaking. Mt Buller has invested in this technology in order to provide a better, longer season for us all to enjoy.
Currently, water for snowmaking is drawn from Boggy Creek, a tributary of the Delatite River. Water is drawn out during winter, coinciding with natural periods of high water levels. The water is then pumped through pipes to snowguns around the mountain that spray it out as snow onto the slopes. At the end of the season when the snow melts, most of the runoff returns to the Delatite catchment, and some will end up entering the Howqua catchment from snowmaking on the southern slopes of Mt Buller.
In recent years, an innovative trial was conducted to assess the feasibility of using the treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plant as a source of water for snowmaking. The benefits of this are twofold:
- Decreased volumes of effluent released to the environment; and
- Decreased extraction of water from Boggy Creek.
The trial was successful, and following installation of new infrastructure and upgrades to the system in 2006, wastewater began to be used for snowmaking in 2008.
Before the wastewater is used for snowmaking it is purified to Class A level for health and environmental reasons. This is achieved using ultra-filtration to produce clean, pure water. The Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Alpine Resort Management Board was recognized for this innovation by the United Nations Association of Australia at the World Environment Day awards in 2002. The new Class A Wastewater Treatment Plant can provide up to 2 million additional litres of recycled water for snowmaking per day.
For more detail about the snowmaking process at Mt Buller, click here to download the Water Reuse Fact Sheet, and here to see a map of the Water Reuse System.