Friday, May 14, 2010

Bottoms up, but hold your nose

Oh, I could give you a lovely list of the ingredients in our sewerage water, but not much imagination is needed for you to conjure up your own mental list.

Instead of running short of water, building expensive and power hungry desalination plants and stealing water from other parts of the state, why don't we just recycle sewerage water? Some of you are saying why not and some of you are saying yuk, I won't drink it.

If you have been to Singapore or London, you have already, or if you only drank bottled water, at least bathed in it. As well as being fully treated, it is also diluted with much larger volumes of fresh water, which seems to be standard practice.

Everytime I hear someone say they will never drink recycled sewerage water, I cast my mind back to The Age's Kenneth Davidson column written on Feb 12th 2009, shortly after Victoria's fires. Here is an extract.

Ironically, the one-quarter of Melbourne households that have been using recycled water since 1980 now have the most secure potable water supply. Most of those in the northern suburbs who use this water are unaware that it is recycled sewage produced by other Melburnians living around Lilydale. The Winneke purification plant has operated without customer complaint for almost 30 years on the principle that what the people don't know won't hurt the politicians.

Mr Davidson is a very clever man who I admire muchly and trust, so I am prepared to accept his word.

But just in case, I researched for thirty seconds to verify his statement. Well, someone is not talking. Melbourne Water tells me it does recycle water collected from non pristine catchments, that is downstream of farms and towns. From the Winneke Treatment Plant, the water goes into the Sugarloaf Reservoir. But it is not quite the same thing. I can't find anything about directly recycling sewerage water for use as drinking water. Perhaps they see no need to tell the punters.

For mine, I don't care, so long as it is clean. I will just add the proviso that I have a recollection from our Northern Territory when a plumber made some wrong pipe connections and not very highly treated contaminated water was coming out drinking and wash basin taps. Why was everyone suddenly getting sick? It is always the human element that screws things up.


  1. As someone who likes to get all high and mighty about things that are clean, fresh, uncontaminated, etc. I, surprisingly, have no problem with recyled water. I think the 'greater good' it provides probably helps, plus it gets heavily diluted and stringently tested - besides, where do you think your fresh water from the sky comes from? Its only recycled from somewhere else on the ground. I say bring it on.

  2. I heard from a local the other week that we (in Werribee and surrounds) are already drinking recycled water. I commented I thought it has had a different taste for about two years or so. The guy worked at the Werribee Treatment Plant. I guess it would not surprise anyone.

  3. Indeed Mutant. Pristine water catchments have rotting animals, shit of all descriptions and god knows what.

    Would not surprise me Cazzie. It might taste different because it is more pure and cleaner.

  4. Pfft, it's only recycled dinosaur crap :P

  5. Canberra, the largest city in the Murray catchment, treats its sewage in the lower molonglo sewage treament plant, which then goes into the lower molonglo and eventually, I guess, makes its way into the taps of the people of Adelaide. It seems we are having a debate about something that people are already drinking and 'yes' ignorance is bliss.

  6. Tiny elements of that too Jayne.

    Hmmm AR. It is kind of funny to hear people saying "I won't drink that filthy stuff", when we already are. Interesting extra info, thanks.

  7. Even if we didn't drink it, why not for the parks and gardens?
    I'm doing my bit, another hole in the spouting, another bucket on the front porch.

  8. Good point Jahteh. In concreted cities, we need to let water seep into the ground and not run off to sea. Respiration and all that.

  9. Anonymous8:03 pm

    People can be too precious about things. Recycled water is often cleaner than non-recycled. I watch all those ads about germ-killing handgel and it makes me cross. We managed this long without it - surely we can give our immune systems some credit?

  10. Kids especially need germs MD. Their immune systems have to learn and become strong.