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Water Recycling Paranoia

Australia's Drought*Compulsory rant warning*
As many know, Australia in general is currently going through a water crisis. In our city of Brisbane, the situation is particularly dire, with the region under Level 3 water restrictions, which means among other things, no hosing of any kind is allowed. The dams are currently at around 28% capacity and falling, and at this rate they say the water will run out in less than a few years. We are praying for rain for the dam catchment area.

With the drought not looking at being broken any time soon, a flood like downpour is needed to alleviate the crisis.

On the weekend a referendum was held in also-drought-ravaged Toowoomba (a town west of Brisbane) on the issue of implementing a water recycling initiative that would see sewage recycled into safe drinking water. Much to my ire, it was resoundingly rejected.

You would think that in such a drastic situation people would be jumping at any chance to increase water reserves for the wider community? Instead we see a scaremongering campaign by the anti-water recyclers that is seemingly senseless. What will they be drinking if the tap runs dry?

It doesn't matter to them that water recycling has been successfully implemented in first-world cities all around the world, some examples being none other than Orange County in California, Singapore, and London.

No, people there haven't had turds floating in their drinking cups, or turned into slimy green aliens as a result of drinking recycled sewage.

Why can't people understand that part of water treatment (both from dams and recycled sewage) is testing parts-per-million for various harmful agents, before it is approved for consumption. Have people been up to the dams recently? It isn't uncommon to find bodies of dead animals (heck even people) floating in that water. You can't exactly fill up your water bottle direct from the source there and not be worried about getting sick. Many cities' fresh water reserves have sewage pumped directly into their source from cities upstream from them.

Treating recycled waste is no more unsafe than treating water taken from dams. If recycled water is safe enough to put in people's dialysis machines, it's safe enough for everyone to drink. There is nothing wrong or unsafe with recycling our waste, and its a much better alternative when one considers the alternative if other measures aren't put in place.

There, off my chest. To amuse everyone, I hope you don't telemarket this lady (speakers on).

6 thoughts on “Water Recycling Paranoia

  1. We're in a drought here too, supposedly! It is actually starting to look super-dry in the south. But no houses here have water metres - we pay a flat rate per month and use as much as we like. They might wanna rethink that...

  2. hear hear.
    My hypothesis is that it will actually be cleaner than the water we currently get, because the scaremonger tactics will make people paranoid, litigious, and therefore the authorities will be extra-super-dee-duper careful.

  3. Mel: how can London be in drought when it rains like all year? (or does the English meaning of 'drought' imply that it hasn't rained in a week?) hehe :p

    Andrew: in most studies I've read on recycled water, one of the only convincing bad points was that the water is in fact often too clean: i.e. that it was so clean that it lacked some of the beneficial nutrients and minerals.

    However, i read they try to overcome this by pumping the recycled water back into the dams or other natural reserves so that with rain etc, it can pick them back up before being re-treated.

  4. I actually think that the vote was flawed. i would like to get a hold of the questions that were actually asked. Because if you ask most people would they like to drink water from recycled sewage most would say no. But if you gave them, for example a senario than they could answer, 'in this particular case i would dink recycled drinking water, rather than let the ams dry up, etc etc'

  5. Hmm, kinda difficult to imagine a random Toowoomban saying 'ooh yeah, get me summa that sewage'. But I can imagine a random Toowoomban saying 'I would rather not die this year when it is so so easily avoidable'.

  6. I know man, it's nuts! But there you have it. They've had a dry two years realistically, especially south-east England. It rained yesterday for the first time in about two months - that's a lot for here!

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