Wastewater management is continually evolving with the development and implementation of new, more efficient technologies. One of these is the Membrane Bioreactor (MBR). Although a relatively new technology in Australia, MBR wastewater treatment has been widely used elsewhere for over 20 years, with thousands of MBRs now in operation worldwide. Over the past 5 years, MBR technology has been enthusiastically embraced in Australia as a potential treatment upgrade option, and via retrofit typically offers two major benefits: (1) more capacity using mostly existing facilities, and (2) very high quality treated effluent. However, infrastructure optimisation via MBR retrofit is not a simple or low-cost solution and there are many factors which should be carefully evaluated before deciding on this method of plant upgrade. The paper reviews a range of design parameters which should be carefully evaluated when considering an MBR retrofit solution. Several actual and conceptual case studies are considered to demonstrate both advantages and disadvantages. Whilst optimising existing facilities and production of high quality water for reuse are powerful drivers, it is suggested that MBRs are perhaps not always the most sustainable Whole-of-Life solution for a wastewater treatment plant upgrade, especially by way of a retrofit.

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