Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Would you drink recycled sewage? Toowoomba in Australia is considering it.

Residents of a drought-stricken Australian town of Toowoomba will vote this week on whether they're prepared to drink water recycled from sewage (yummy) the first such scheme in the country and one of only a handful in the world.

The town of Toowoomba in the state of Queensland is DIVIDED about drinking recycled water, although the town has faced water restrictions for a decade.

Local Mayor Dianne Thorley, who is leading the "Yes" campaign, said that without drought-breaking rains the town's dams could dry up within two years.

She insisted the 73 million dollar (US 55 million dollar) plan to pump purified wastewater back into the main reservoir for drinking was safe.
peline to be built to bring water from a nearby reservoir.

"Somewhere, sometime we have got to stand up and change the way we are doing things," she told AFP as the town prepared for the July 29 referendum.

"Otherwise our great grandchildren are going to be living in something like the Sahara desert."

A vocal "No" campaign opposes the proposal, and says there are unforeseeable health risks for the town's 100,000 residents.

"The scientists say it should be safe," said local councillor Keith Beer, one of three members of the nine-strong council that opposes the plan. "That is not good enough for me, for my kids and my grandkids."

Toowoomba City Council says the solution is recycling effluent and pumping it back into reservoirs for drinking a system known as planned indirect potable reuse.

The wastewater would pass through seven cleansing and treatment processes including ultraviolet disinfection, advanced oxidation and ultrafiltration before being pumped into the town's Cooby Dam.

It would remain in the reservoir for up to three years for testing, before being pumped through the town's existing water treatment plant.

Similar schemes are up and running elsewhere in the world.

Since 1976, authorities in Orange County, California have injected purified wastewater into an undergroud aquifer (no tap water for me at Disneyland) and since 1978, the Occoquan Reservoir in North Virginia has been topped up with recycled water.

In Singapore, one percent of supply has come from recycled water since 2003. But opponents say the scale of the Toowoomba project, under which 25 percent of the town's supply would be recycled, is unprecedented.

"Nowhere else in the world deliberately drinks water reclaimed from sewage to the degree proposed by Toowoomba," the No campaign website says. "Any water supply for over 100,000 people should use tried and proven methods. We are not guinea pigs."

Maybe they can recycle the sewage for watering purposes and pipe in water from another place? I would have to buy a lot of bottled water if I lived near Toowoomba if this passes through......

Would you drink recycled water?

***Update*** The residents of Toowoomba voted against the proposal surprisingly enough.


john c said...

The Toowoomba recycled water debate is about far more than recycled water.

There are other viable water options but the Mayor is hell-bent on having the people drink recycled sewage water.

Hopefully the vote on 29/7 will put this all to rest!

Rob Good said...

Well I hope the Mayor is making the right decision in backing this.... I for one would be voting against it.

TonyC said...

Having done a civil engineering course and touching on this as part of it, many cities have recycled, treated water running through the taps. The sewage treatment process isn't just a matter of filtering waste into a cotton broadcloth, it's quite an intensive process. So long as the sewage treatment plant is designed properly (and not some stripped-down, budget-priced version) which includes chlorination, no problems there. Just build the system properly, and run and maintain it PROPERLY.

wateruser06 said...

The difficulty with the Thorley project for Toowoomba is that it is so poorly thought out.

It is supposed to provide 11,000 ML of recycled sewage water from 8,000 ML of sewage.

That's crazy.

Singapore's project works on an 80% recovery.

Toowoomba's numbers don't stack up.

Toowoomba also has nowhere for the RO waste stream to go - Acland Coal don't want it.

Singapore discharges its waste into the sea.

Without Acland taking it, this will double the project's costs - something Thorley and Council refuse to admit.

It's a scandal - regardless of your view on recycling sewage.

Dalby will become the model for recycled sewage in Australia. They have Federal and State funding to use gas water for their drinking water supply and will use recycled water for parks and gardens.

Rymann said...

25% is a radical step.
Wouldnt a pipeline and a desalinization
plant make a lot more sense?

Rob Good said...

I'd agree Rymann, although it is a way inland, so it may be all about costs. From what wateruser06 says, it seems that what the council is proposing is far fetched anyway, so I hope it gets sorted.

Rymann said...

Yeah, its not like its for drinking anyway, thats what XXXX and Bundaberg is for :)

You have to laugh though, theres always something up with Gold Coast politicians...

Rob Good said...

There seems to be something up with most all politicians these days buddy...

Anonymous said...

Are you all retarded?
the water scheme is the only way for us Toowoombeans to go if we want to be drinking.
And guess what kids! the referendum wasnt passed and as a result Toowoomba has no water! Unless there is significant amounts of rain in the next couple of months, we will be screwed.
oh, and did you hear that brisbane (the capital city of Queensland and the next biggest city closest) is getting recycled water?
yeah, guess where Toowoombas water is coming from when we run out... it really takes a genius to figure that one out.
Also, by the moronic citizens voting no, we lost the govt. funding offered to us, we have no alternative plans of action, and the water is running out quite quickly. and the ironic part is, in a couple of months time, we will all be drinking recycled water anyways.....