[ASC-media] Call for Better Coordination on Water Recycling and Reuse - National Review Points Way Ahead

Cathy Reade creade at squirrel.com.au
Fri Mar 26 14:57:47 EST 2004

Embargoed: 29 March 2004


A national review of the processing, use and application of recycled water
in Australia has called on governments at all levels to be more proactive
and ensure the better use of recycled water, stormwater and rainwater as
additional water resources.

The review also highlights the differences in the efforts between the
States, and the gaps that have developed between the wider use in rural
areas compared with the urban areas.

“At least one third of all drinking water used in our major cities is used
for watering domestic gardens, ovals and sports fields; industrial uses, and
toilet flushing. Surely there is scope for using recycled water for much of
these uses,” said Dr John Radcliffe, author of the national review of water
recycling and reuse in Australia.

“Water Recycling in Australia” was undertaken for the Australian Academy of
Technological Sciences and Engineering by Dr John Radcliffe, Project
Director of the ASTE Review of Water Recycling in Australia. The review was
sponsored by the Australian Research Council and was released today (Monday,
29 March) as part of a keynote address at the Enviro 04 Convention and
Exhibition in Sydney.

Author of the report, Dr John Radcliffe, told the convention that it is up
to governments and water utilities to encourage improved water use and reuse
as an opportunity for augmenting Australia’s limited water resources, rather
than just treating recycled water as a disposal problem.

Dr Radcliffe noted that water recycling issues include:
·	the trade-offs between environmental impacts such as salinity and
groundwater changes and the benefits of having more water resources;
·	potential environmental constraints in changing some wastewater
·	the conflicts of interest between water conservation policies and
profitable service delivery;
·	the lack of transparency in the costing and pricing of water, wastewater
and water recycling services;
·	public concerns about any possible uncertainties about health risks of any
·	the public perceptions of using recycled water, and
·	the need to ensure that the public is involved in the decision-making
processes that may lead to adopting more water recycling, rather than just
explaining the decisions afterwards.

“There have been only modest increases in the production of recycled water
and its use since 2000. Nearly 10% of Australia’s sewage effluent is being
recycled in one form or another, but little of it has been in the capital
cities,” said Dr Radcliffe.

“With some States now working to drastically reduce individual demand for
water – Sydney for example by as much as 35%, and others are setting targets
to recycle 20% of their wastewater – such as Canberra, Melbourne and Perth,
most Australian States and capital cities have a potential to establish
world leadership in their recycling and reuse of recycled water,” he said.

Dr Radcliffe provided details of how Australia in general and then each
State and each Capital City fares with water recycling and its reuse, and
also pointed to the policy and other changes necessary to make better use of
recycled water.

Annual water reuse from 		Recycled water use in State capital
Sewerage Treatment Plants 	cities as a % of sewage effluent
in Australia, 2001-2			treated, 2001-2

NSW	      8.9				SYDNEY	2.3
VIC	      6.7				MELBOURNE	2.0
QLD	    11.2				BRISBANE	6.0
SA	    15.1				ADELAIDE	11.1
WA	    10.0				PERTH	3.3
TAS	      9.5				HOBART	0.1
ACT	      5.6
NT	      5.2
Aust.	      9.1

“The current water recycling situation isn’t helped by the fact that there
are inconsistencies between governments in the management and regulation of
their water resources and water services. There are variations between the
states in the way in which they categorise wastewater treatment processes
and the approved recycling opportunities that follow,” he noted.

“There needs to be a review of the regulatory environment to integrate
health and environmental standards, service provision and financial
regulation. At the moment, these regulatory systems appear quite
disconnected, and there is a tendency to be prescriptive in what has to be
done rather that prescriptive of the outcomes required,” reported Dr

A strong note of caution was sounded for governments, water resource
managers and water utilities.

“As much as Australia needs to use and reuse its water resources wisely, it
must ensure that as it increasingly adopts water recycling, it maintains
public confidence and trust in the decision-making processes and their
implementation. There is no security of demand for recycled water in the
face of any health disaster,” he warned.

Further information, including further comment on individual State efforts
on recycling, or to organise interviews:
Cathy Reade, Media Liaison, ATSE
Mob: 0413 575 934	Em: creade at squirrel.com.au

The ATSE consists of over 600 of the country’s top specialists in
applications of science and technology, and unites Australia’s most eminent
engineers and technological scientists

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