Nov 032008

Somewhat amusingly, the recycled water debate is back on the political agenda for the Bligh Labor government in Queensland.

Equally amusingly, it’s the mainstream media in the form of News Corporation’s flagship in this country which appears to be carrying the torch for those who’d rather concentrate on where the water comes from, as opposed to where it’s going to, and why. Let’s be open-minded about this issue and accept the fact that we live in the world’s dryest nation, and one which is gradually becoming dryer thanks to climate change. Let’s also accept that in the main, we’re happy to flush away our bodily wastes with the best potable water that can be provided at the push of a button. Certainly, over 200,000 rain water tanks have been installed under downpipes in Queensland, but one wonders just how many of those tanks are plumbed into toilets, washing machines or outdoor gardens.
The issue was getting another airing on Radio National’s ‘Australia Talks’ program this evening. Surprise, surprise, eight out of ten people I heard take the time to call in to offer their opinion, were all for the idea of recycled water being returned to reservoirs, thence to be diluted by natural catchment holdings, treated in the usual course of potable water treatment, and returned to taps and toilets throughout S.E.Queensland. Rightfully so, too, as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, there will always be the nay-sayers. Those intellectually challenged, easily frightened individuals who just can’t let go of the spectre of the resurrected snapper bobbing around in their glass of recycled water. That doom doyen from Toowoomba’s ‘NO’ decision to recycled water in 2006, was once again exhibiting his ignorance of the science behind the recycling process on ‘Australia Talks’. Fabius Perry “Snow” Manners, a former councillor on the Toowoomba City Council, until turfed for his idiocy, and prime mover for the ‘NO’ campaign two years ago. His language is deliberately styled to incite that ‘yuck factor’ among people who’d rather not be drinking poo-water. He deliberately describes the end product, derived from sewage treatment works which is 99% clean, then recovered through a complicated reverse osmosis process at purpose designed water recycling works to deliver a product which is 99.999% pure, as recycled sewage. Clearly, it’s not. It is recycled water. H2O. That recycled water is to be then piped, in S.E.Queensland’s case, into the headwaters of Wivenhoe Dam to be radically diluted, filtered through the natural biological medium of water plants, wildlife and natural ultra-violet sunlight. Brisbane, Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast, Logan, Redlands and Gold Coast local government areas will all be taking some or all water supplies for human consumption from the Wivenhoe catchment. That water will be treated, just as the stuff which comes from our taps right now is treated. I defy anyone to do a before and after test on purely scientific grounds and declare a differential which proves harmful to human beings. But Snow and his ilk will continue to push the bobbing snapper myth.
Recycled water will become an election issue in 2009 for the Bligh government. Whether or not it proves damaging to Labor, or Labor falls to a growing disenchantment with a political flavour going increasingly sour remains to be seen, but I for one will not be at all surprised to see Fabius Perry Manners pushing the poo-water barrow right up ’til polling day. Some people never learn.

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