By Adam Coleman
A recent report on water policy by the Senate’s standing committee on rural and regional affairs has recommended the development of water recycling plants to increase public support for recycled water.
"The committee recommends that the federal government should commit to the construction of one or more advanced water recycling plants to produce water for a range of both potable (drinking) and non-potable uses, in order to raise public awareness about the safety of recycled water," the report said.
Any consideration of a water recycling scheme should be carefully evaluated says Water Services Association of Australia – deputy executive director, Mr Claude Piccinin.
“The whole thing is about risk management and depending on the risk you are facing in your particular circumstances; your management processes are going to have to be different.
Mr Piccinin suggests that small local councils may not have the institutional capacity to consider the implementation of an indirect potable water recycling program (or recycled water held for a time in an aquifer before supplementing drinking supplies).
“Either they outsource it to experts or they join together with other councils to form a utility that has the critical mass to handle that degree of competence.
Any mistakes would have serious consequences, he says.
“Let me tell you the cost of a mistake is massive. You can kill people and can make thousands very ill. The once through system is very forgiving the indirect potable re-use is not forgiving. That is why we don’t even want to contemplate at this stage direct potable re-use,” he said.
“When people do these costings, they do them on the basis that there are not going to be any cock-ups.”