Waterless wok targets heavy water usage

By Adam Coleman

Wollongong and Hurstville City Councils in conjunction with the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW (ECC NSW) is targeting an area of excessive water usage with an inventive waterless wok.

ECC NSW spokesperson and project coordinator, Ms Helen Scott, said that Asian style cooking restaurants use two to four times more water than other styles of kitchens, due to continuous running water used in the cooking process.

“The average daily water use by a traditional wok stove is 5,500 litres per day. Some Chinese restaurants can use as much as 8,000 litres per day. By installing a waterless wok stove, there is the potential to save 5,000 litres of water per day per wok stove, a total of 1.8 million litres per year,” she said. 

The benefits of the Saving Water in Asian Restaurants Project (SWARP) are not solely environmental suggests Scott, with a real financial benefit to those restaurants that choose to install a waterless wok.

“Anyone who picks up the waterless wok will halve their water use,” she said.

“From our perspective it is a win/win situation. It was estimated that it could save [restaurants] up to $4500 a year.”
According to Hurstville City Council manager – customer relations, Paul Spyve, the project is the first of its kind in Australia.

“[The waterless woks are] based on technology from Malaysia, so you can buy these air-cooled woks overseas, but Sydney Water actually contracted some engineers to modify the design.”

In an area with the largest number of Chinese restaurants in Sydney, Hurstville City Council identified the problem of excessive water usage.“It came up through a project we were running. We were undertaking energy audits of some of the restaurants and we noticed that there was a large volume of water being used,” he said.

Mr Spyve can see the potential for this type of initiative to be rolled out to all restaurants with wok stoves across Australia.

“Water usage is an issue in virtually every state so it is something that other states could be interested in picking up on. If they are they are welcome to contact Hurstville or the ECC.”

The SWARP project currently offers participating restaurants a maximum subsidy of $4000 per stove to replace their traditional wok stove, half of which is to be repaid at the end of the first year.

“We hope to branch out into the other areas of Sydney as originally planned and also include the next largest groups – Thai and Vietnamese restaurants,” Ms Scott said.

With a limited number of subsidies available, some restaurants have purchased the woks at their own expense after realising the long term cost savings, including the Penrith Panthers Leagues Club.

The adoption of waterless wok will not affect a restaurant’s productivity, suggests Mr Spyve.

“It is based on existing technology that is used in Asia anyway. The reports we have had is that it makes no difference to the quality of the food,” he said.

The State Government’s Water Savings Fund has provided $391,000 funding to the Ethnic Communities Council for the project.

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