Terry Leckie

5 June 2012 – In three years Terry Leckie’s The Water Factory has snared clients such as Frasers Property, Australand and Johnson Property for major water installations, in between agitating for a better national water system through his submissions to the Productivity Commission.

Terry Leckie had long relished the challenge of setting up a sustainable, decentralised, private water system in competition with public water utilities.

But it took a nine-year drought, concerted lobbying and the introduction of the New South Wales Government’s Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WICA) and its regulations in 2008 before he could turn that ambition into reality.

Leckie, a civil engineer, with lengthy experience in water recycling, founded  the Water Factory Company three years ago. Funded by a group of private investors, it is the first water services utility in the state to get the required licence for a private operator.

The Act encourages competition in water and sewage supply and infrastructure development for reticulating recycled water.

Decentralised, sustainable water systems are the way of the future and drought-prone Australia is the place to prove it, Leckie says.

He believes the concept of drought-proofing and cheaper costs will be the key drivers for the growth in the smart water systems his company builds, rather than carbon tax or carbon credits for water saving.

“Energy prices and carbon tax focus on efficiency and that tends to lead to water savings but awareness of water saving has dropped off since the drought ended,” he says.

Leckie has a small team of six full-time and three part-time staff in his Sydney office and uses contractors and consultants who work pressure cooker hours, building the company into a profitable business.

Johnson Property

In January last year Water Factory Company installed its first substantial operation, a private sewage system for 900 new homes in Johnson Property Group’s Vermont Estate a residential development on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Pitt Town, north west of Sydney.

Other projects are now in progress but it is the $2 billion Central Park residential and commercial development on the former Carlton and United Brewery site at Broadway in central Sydney that has catapulted the company into the limelight.

Central Park, Broadway

In partnership with the park’s developers, Frasers Property and Sekisui  House Water Factory Company is creating the world’s largest underground water recycling plant in the basement of a high-rise apartment building on the 100,000 square metre (5.8 hectare) site. At full capacity it will produce one megalitre (1000 kilolitres) of recycled water every day.

Leckie says the company will provide all water services for an estimated 5000 residents in 1800 apartments and 15,000 daily workers and visitors to the commercial/retail precinct.

It will buy drinking water from Sydney Water and sell to residents at the same price they would pay directly. But residents will pay only for the water they drink and sewage will be charged, based on this use.

Each apartment or office will have its own pipes and meters and water usage will be read and billed remotely. Leckie says cost savings for residents will come through the user pay system, instead of the usual equal share system for apartments, and through cheaper costs for recycled water from treated sewage, storm water, rainwater, groundwater, drainage and irrigation water from green walls.

This recycled water will be reused in toilets, washing machines, for irrigation and the cooling systems of the energy plant developers have installed in the bid for the highest environmental ratings for the complex.

Leckie is no slouch when it comes to championing sustainable water options for Australia.  He described the Productivity Commission’s 2010 study of urban water, , as negative and was critical of the fact it overlooked the New South Wales model of private operators of decentralised systems. The study was aimed at achieving improved resource efficiency through reform.

“The emphasis should have been on fully competitive and decentralised water supplies, not bulk water services,” he wrote in a 29 page response to the study findings.

While bulk water services might be necessary in the short to medium term Leckie say future water services needed to be focused on localised, sustainable solutions that generated seasonal excess water supplies on site, shifting infrastructure needs.

“By omitting to include a study/comparison of the NSW WICA-led market, the Productivity Commission is implying that this market is insignificant and not important,” he wrote.

Leckie is on a mission to make his company a game changer, in the way it delivers water to its customers and the way people think about their water use, whether it is for drinking, flushing, irrigating or washing cars or clothes.

He says recycled water systems provide security of water supply, water savings, new sources of water for irrigation, community facilities and ecosystems, and gives households with greater control over water use and waste water. It also saves the drinking water supply.

Leckie pointed out to the Productivity Commission that developers were increasingly engaging private water utilities to provide decentralised schemes to shorten timeframes for land release to market, reduce costs for head works and lead-in infrastructure.

“Alternative water sources achieved sustainability ratings and differentiation through green technology,” he says.

“Governments need to invest in diversified, flexible, sustainable, and innovative water systems capable of catering for high growth regions.”

A long track record in water works, starting in New Zealand

Leckie has been developing smart water networks in Australia and his native New Zealand for 25 years, and has long been an advocate of smart, recycled water networks in Australia, having managed and overseen multi-million dollar water and waste water infrastructure projects. These includeTransfield/Montgomery Watson, a board seat at Alliance and founding an industry working group, with Sydney Water, to improve the integration of decentralised water systems with existing centralised systems.

Australand’s Discovery Point

His Blue Sky Consulting advised the Australand/Landcom project at Discovery Point in the inner south of Sydney on a blackwater recycling plant, turning sewage from 1200 high-rise apartments into a saleable product, saving millions of litres of water a year, in the process. That project was under Australand’s 2003 statement of commitment to Sydney Water to reduce water use by 35 per cent of all of its future commercial and residential buildings.

“These sustainable features future-proof properties and enhances their value.”

He says smart water networks are designed to capture changes in energy, heating and cooling systems, climate, information technology, customer requirements, water infrastructure technology, and communities turning from water users to water producers.

“The technologies we are applying today were not available to us five years ago.

“We expect technology to change over the next 10 to 15 years that is why we ensure our smart water networks can utilise next generation technologies”.

In three years Terry Leckie’s The Water Factory has snared clients such as Frasers Property, Australand and Johnson Property for major water installations, in between agitating for a better national water system through his submissions to the Productivity Commission.

Terry Leckie had long relished the challenge of setting up a sustainable, decentralised, private water system in competition with public water utilities.

But it took a nine-year drought, concerted lobbying and the introduction of the New South Wales Government’s Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WICA) and its regulations in 2008 before he could turn that ambition into reality.

Leckie, a civil engineer, with lengthy experience in water recycling, founded  the Water Factory Company three years ago. Funded by a group of private investors, it is the first water services utility in the state to get the required licence for a private operator.

The Act encourages competition in water and sewage supply and infrastructure development for reticulating recycled water.

Decentralised, sustainable water systems are the way of the future and drought-prone Australia is the place to prove it, Leckie says.

He believes the concept of drought-proofing and cheaper costs will be the key drivers for the growth in the smart water systems his company builds, rather than carbon tax or carbon credits for water saving.

“Energy prices and carbon tax focus on efficiency and that tends to lead to water savings but awareness of water saving has dropped off since the drought ended,” he says.

Leckie has a small team of six full-time and three part-time staff in his Sydney office and uses contractors and consultants who work pressure cooker hours, building the company into a profitable business.

Johnson Property

In January last year Water Factory Company installed its first substantial operation, a private sewage system for 900 new homes in Johnson Property Group’s Vermont Estate a residential development on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Pitt Town, north west of Sydney.

Other projects are now in progress but it is the $2 billion Central Park residential and commercial development on the former Carlton and United Brewery site at Broadway in central Sydney that has catapulted the company into the limelight.

Central Park, Broadway

In partnership with the park’s developers, Frasers Property, Water Factory Company is creating the world’s largest underground water recycling plant in the basement of a high-rise apartment building on the 100,000 square metre (5.8 hectare) site. At full capacity it will produce one megalitre (1000 kilolitres) of recycled water every day.

Leckie says the company will provide all water services for an estimated 5000 residents in 1800 apartments and 15,000 daily workers and visitors to the commercial/retail precinct.

It will buy drinking water from Sydney Water and sell to residents at the same price they would pay directly. But residents will pay only for the water they drink and sewage will be charged, based on this use.

Each apartment or office will have its own pipes and meters and water usage will be read and billed remotely. Leckie says cost savings for residents will come through the user pay system, instead of the usual equal share system for apartments, and through cheaper costs for recycled water from treated sewage, storm water, rainwater, groundwater, drainage and irrigation water from green walls.

This recycled water will be reused in toilets, washing machines, for irrigation and the cooling systems of the energy plant developers have installed in the bid for the highest environmental ratings for the complex.

Leckie is no slouch when it comes to championing sustainable water options for Australia.  He described the Productivity Commission’s 2010 study of urban water, , as negative and was critical of the fact it overlooked the New South Wales model of private operators of decentralised systems. The study was aimed at achieving improved resource efficiency through reform.

“The emphasis should have been on fully competitive and decentralised water supplies, not bulk water services,” he wrote in a 29 page response to the study findings.

While bulk water services might be necessary in the short to medium term Leckie say future water services needed to be focused on localised, sustainable solutions that generated seasonal excess water supplies on site, shifting infrastructure needs.

“By omitting to include a study/comparison of the NSW WICA-led market, the Productivity Commission is implying that this market is insignificant and not important,” he wrote.

Leckie is on a mission to make his company a game changer, in the way it delivers water to its customers and the way people think about their water use, whether it is for drinking, flushing, irrigating or washing cars or clothes.

He says recycled water systems provide security of water supply, water savings, new sources of water for irrigation, community facilities and ecosystems, and gives households with greater control over water use and waste water. It also saves the drinking water supply.

Leckie pointed out to the Productivity Commission that developers were increasingly engaging private water utilities to provide decentralised schemes to shorten timeframes for land release to market, reduce costs for head works and lead-in infrastructure.

“Alternative water sources achieved sustainability ratings and differentiation through green technology,” he says.

“Governments need to invest in diversified, flexible, sustainable, and innovative water systems capable of catering for high growth regions.”

Australand’s Discovery Point

His Blue Sky Consulting advised the Australand/Landcom project at Discovery Point in the inner south of Sydney on a blackwater recycling plant, turning sewage from 1200 high-rise apartments into a saleable product, saving millions of litres of water a year, in the process. That project was under Australand’s 2003 statement of commitment to Sydney Water to reduce water use by 35 per cent of all of its future commercial and residential buildings.

“These sustainable features future-proof properties and enhances their value.”

He says smart water networks are designed to capture changes in energy, heating and cooling systems, climate, information technology, customer requirements, water infrastructure technology, and communities turning from water users to water producers.

“The technologies we are applying today were not available to us five years ago.

“We expect technology to change over the next 10 to 15 years that is why we ensure our smart water networks can utilise next generation technologies”.

NSW still alone in privatised water, but maybe not for long
Leckie says while NSW is the only state with the legislation allowing private water services operators, the South Australian government is committed to this cause and there are a lot of queries presently coming out of Victoria.

But there is more than enough work to occupy his company in NSW for some years to come.

“We are at the investment stage and investors, including me, are in the company for the long term.”

Leckie says institutional investors have been showing interest in the company and he wouldn’t discount the idea of an ASX listing down the track but says there is much work to be done before that could be considered.

“We will start making a buck when we have 20 utility schemes operating in the next five years. Cash flows from these schemes will generate income,” he says.

“It’s a progression.”