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recycling water----Queensland backs off « Previous | |Next »
November 28, 2008

The rains have come in Queensland and the Bligh Government has used the big wet to back away from both building the Traveston Dam and investing in recycled water so that recycled waste water could be pumped to Brisbane's Wivenhoe Dam. That still leaves Brisbane dependent on one source of water supply ---dams that are dependent on the rain falling in the catchment area of the dam. In backing away from making the shift to a more sustainable mode of urban life Brisbane remains vulnerable in terms of water security.

Urban Australia is still too reliant on single sources of water - mainly rain-fed dams. Australian cities can no longer rely on one source of water, whether it be dams or the River Murray as for Adelaide. Water security, especially in a warmed -up southern Australia requires a diversification of water supplies that includes recycling storm and water water since these are less-climate dependent sources of supply.

The National Water Commission says that:

Australian cities of the future will be designed water sensitively – and it is important that water recycling continue to be available as the backbone for more enlightened water sensitive urban designs.The National Water Commission therefore regards water recycling in all its forms as a vital option to re-build Australia’s water security and as an enabler for water sensitive urban design. The Commission believes it should be considered on its merits with an open mind alongside other less-climate dependant water sources such as desalination, stormwater capture and inter-basin water transfers.

The opposition to recycled water from the conservative side of politics, notably The Australian's campaign against what it calls "recycled sewerag"e, over looks the history of recycling of water for non-drinking purposes long been widely accepted across Australia, for use by industries, irrigation and households.

Moreover, recycled water has also been used for drinking purposes for zonks – with many communities in Australia drawing on water supplies --eg., the River Murray --that contain treated wastewater discharged from upstream sources.

Given the effects of global warming Australia needs to all put all water supply options on the table and invest in the development and commercialising of new water technologies including de-salination technologies. Issues of sustainability, long given lip service by politicians and decision-makers, do need to become a substantive part of the formal agenda of politics.

It is difficult to understand the entrenched opposition to making use of different water supplies in favour of relying on rain filled dams given the lack of water in parts of regional Australia, lessening river flows, water restrictions in urban Australia, and the way that storm water just runs into the sea.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:53 AM | | Comments (10)


If we weren't due for an election it would be a different story. The recent rain up here was just lucky timing for Bligh.

We'll be getting the recycled water regardless of who wins the election because the supply will dwindle again.

I don't think the Opposition's opposition has been as effective on this as the media and an insistent grassroots campaign, but I'd be interested to see what Les has to say about that.

The local media has been so relentlessly opposed to the Bligh government that ministers have stopped talking to the press. Unlike the Rudd setup, they haven't yet figured out how to get around the media to get their messages out, so there's been no education campaign to counter the 'sewerage' narrative.

It will be interesting to see how they go about conducting an election campaign in this environment. Meanwhile, we've got an expensive recycling plant sitting there doing nothing.

Lyn, I'm interested in the decision to delay the Traveston. Can you give a run down as to how you think the general public perceives the issues relating to the Traveston? Pro or anti dam, heard of the lungfish,is the environmentalists campaign against the dam getting attention, do you think that given a future dry spell the dam issue will reassert itsilf or is it definitely off the political agenda?
whats the local take on all this?

"The Australian" promotes some very weird ideas. I'm daily poised for it to claim that Thabo Mbeki is right and that the human immunodeficiency virus is not the cause of AIDS.

I know that in his 1959 lecture "The Two Cultures" C P Snow criticised the gulf between Britain's cultural establishment and its scientific establishment, but is it still incumbent on the cultural elites (or whoever "The Australian" supposes are its core audience) to be deeply suspicious of science?

drinking poo water is one of those issues that can be beat up to appeal to those that are susceptible to misinformation.
The science behind recycled water is completely valid and if it is produced cheaper than desalination it should be used.
My understanding is that the water commission intends to introduce poo water to the dams when they fall below 40%. And that will happen most likely. I think it could be sold easier if it decided to add it when the levels are higher. Sold to the group I mentioned above.
It is safe to say I think that this state Labor government will be gone after the next election so all things at this point are speculative.

A transcript of ABC Radio National's show "The National Interest" on water from last Sunday.
Worth a read if you missed the broadcast.

Mike M, good comment re "Oz"/Mbeki.
They routinely and spitefully, crudely affront the text.
The thing that comes to mind is the silliness that emerged with eco(nomic) rationalism of charging of people for the collected run-off into rain water tanks they had the wit to install, out of their own money.
I never get so amazed at the micromanaging micromindedness of various government and corporate bodies, that I get surprised for long when something like this turns up to trump the previous outrage, whatever that was.

Fred, as far as I'm aware there is zero public support for the Traveston Dam, not so much because of environmental concerns, but I think just because it's yet another bloody dam.

There's a cultural attitude up here to water that's very specifically limited to SEQ. The government ran a brilliant water saving campaign during the shortages and wasting water is now socially unacceptable.

Water tanks are common and plenty of people recycle grey water even now the restrictions have been loosened.

I'd be interested to hear what Les has to say about it, but I have the impression that water management is seen as a very localised issue, so you'll find support for small scale solutions like collecting run off, but not much for large scale solutions like dams.

Regardless, I think the govt is committed to the dam. Garrett is holding it up, but I don't know whether he can stop it.

All true. Adding it while the levels are higher would be a good selling point, but selling points are pointless when you can't get your message out. News Ltd is clearly more interested in politics than the public good at the moment, so the poo will have to wait until News achieves its objective.

The trouble with building dams is that reclaiming large amounts of land that has sometimes been as is for many years is quite unpopular with country folk and environmental types. So there is always going to be a campaign against it based on those 2 issues plus those with political objectives. It really is a 3 pronged defense and very hard to crack.
With the good piping system that Qld has put in place I wonder if having many smaller catchment areas that feed to the dams is the better way to go.
A good water plan is to have many options and ways of gathering it. Qld is far in front of the other states I would say.

"A good water plan is to have many options and ways of gathering it. Qld is far in front of the other states I would say."

Interesting you say that Les. It's about time we decentralised just about everything, starting with water and power. Like you, I think Queensland is ahead on water, and a lot of that's down to people's attitudes. We just don't see it as a problem with one, big, dam-size solution anymore. So add that to the country/environmental types aspect and you're going to have a hard time selling a new dam. Funny when you think that it was the govt's watersaving campaign that made people think that way, but it's come back to bite them.

If they could see their way clear to doing the same with power I'd think about swapping my sunshine state plates for the smart state ones.

Everybody knows that all those people over the border have B.O. and so will you if you stay there too long.