Australia is experiencing one of its hottest and driest springs on record. Last Thursday was the warmest day on record with temperatures climbing to a balmy 34 degrees. They are in the first throws of spring yet there is already a well-established drought. Rivers are dry, fields are barren and farmers are already struggling to keep their heads above water (if you will excuse the pun). The weathermen are predicting a long and punishing summer.

There is a total fire ban in most states and while this is not unusual, it is normally not implemented until the height of summer. Back burning, the practice of deliberately burning off strategic areas to avoid fires at a later date can be seen everywhere outside of the city.

Not surprisingly, water conservation is high on the political agenda. Both the government, and the opposition, claim to have the answers to Australia’s’ chronic water shortage. In Victoria the debate appears to be polarised around dam building. The opposition believe building a $80 million dam would ease Melbourne’s water crisis, whereas the government has, quite rightly, pointed out that the river in question is already over utilised and there is little point in damming a dry river. Their answer is to reconnect an existing reservoir with the river. Why the river was disconnected in the first place isn’t clear. Nobody appears to have any answers apart from more dams and reservoirs.

One shocking fact to emerge from this debate is that Victoria does not recycle any of its water! Coming from London, where our drinking water has been through seventeen people (and a water treatment plant) before it gets to us, I was perplexed. How could a country like Britain, with so much water need to recycle, whereas a country as dry as Australia feels no need to recycle at all? Was the water treatment plant a purely British preserve?

The Victorian Government does encourage individuals to recycle, giving financial incentives for water filtration systems that connect to toilets and stand pipes. Building companies are connecting to water treatment plants to achieve the same effect, again connecting the treated water only to toilets and stand pipes. This was on the news recently. The reporter talked as if he was reporting on a cure for cancer and watched the water spurting from the standpipe like an excited child. They do not recommend drinking the water however. The Melbourne water website says: ‘class A recycled water (the best you can get) is safe for use on irrigation and for food crops including those eaten raw’, but not for drinking.

Is there something Thames Water isn’t telling us, or are Australians just more particular about their water?


3 Responses to “Water”

  1. waterboy Says:

    “Coming from London, where our drinking water has been through seventeen people (and a water treatment plant) before it gets to us.”

    That old myth – and the number of people is ever increasing. It used to be seven.

    Qu – how do you know the water has been through 17 people before it gets to you and what happens to it after that – where does it go so that it avoids the 18th person?

    Unfortunately, this is one of the great myths of water recycling – known as the ‘7 sets of kidneys argument’

  2. waterboy Says:

    So much for Victoria not recycling any water:

    Residents tap into recycled water

    13 October 2006

    Cranbourne is home to the first Victorian house connected to a centralised recycled water scheme.

    Hunt Club residents Erika and Paul Plier were helped by Water Minister John Thwaites in turning on the recycled water at their house yesterday (Wednesday).

    The Bradford Drive property is the first of about 1200 houses in the Hunt Club that will be fitted with a system that enables recycled water to be used for both inside and outside needs.

    This is expected to save about 200 million litres of drinking water each year.

    Mr Thwaites said the recycled water initiative was the way of the future for Victoria and would dramatically cut the use of drinking water being used to water the garden, wash the car and flush toilets.

    “Recycled water is not subject to the same water restrictions as drinking water, allowing these residents to water their gardens all year round,” Mr Thwaites said.

    Bright purple hoses, taps, pipes and meters indicate to residents that the water supply is recycled and not fit for human consumption.

    The introduction of recycled water into the Hunt Club is a joint initiative between the State Government, South East Water and the developers of the estate, the Dennis Family Corporation.

    With the continued dry climate, increased population and parts of Victoria being severely affected by drought, the recycled water initiative is seen as an integral part of protecting water reserves.

    “This project further establishes recycled water as an important resource in Melbourne’s water supplies,” Mr Thwaites said.

    Dennis Family Corporation executive chairman Bert Dennis said new residents to the development were helping Melbourne’s water shortages by turning on the purple garden tap.

    “By using recycled water for outside use and toilet flushing, residents will reduce their drinking water use by about 40 per cent,” he said.

  3. Geoff Says:

    I read that every breath you take, a couple of molecules were exhaled by Oliver Cromwell.

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