Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tim Flannery - Australian of the Year

Professor Tim Flannery was announced yesterday as 2007 Australian of the Year. Flannery is an internationally acclaimed palaeontologist and climate scientist. He is also the author of number of popular books including The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers.

Flannery’s views on climate change and on nuclear energy are well known. Less so, his views on recycled water. A few comments in today’s Daily Telegraph bring us up to speed...

Sewage answer to water crisis

The Daily Telegraph
By Luke McIlveen
January 27, 2007

AUSTRALIANS must face up to the inevitability of using water recycled from sewage to wash, bathe and drink, the head of Prime Minister John Howard's new water task force warned yesterday.

Senator Bill Heffernan told The Saturday Daily Telegraph: "There is plenty of science available today that recycled water can be made more sterile than our rivers and streams. If this dry spell continues, there will come a time when some areas will have to inject recycled water into the drinking supply."

His message – backed by Australian of the Year environmental scientist Tim Flannery – will re-ignite the debate on whether drinking treated effluent is the only solution to the water crisis.

Senator Heffernan – heading a task force to address the crisis – said: "We shouldn't be using A-grade drinking water to water The Domain – at the very least you should be using recycled water for that."

With the Government launching its $10 billion plan this week to tackle drought in the bush, the pressure will now shift to the cities to help overcome the crisis, with recycled water increasingly being seen as the only option.

Dr Flannery claimed all Australians should be drinking recycled water, taking the lead from countries such as Singapore. "All water is recycled ultimately anyway. There's been no new water on the planet since the dinosaurs," he said.

Dr Flannery warned major residential areas could run out of water.

"The cities are on the cusp. Places like the Central Coast are in a pretty bad way," he said.

Mr Howard appeared to endorse drinking recycled water yesterday.

"I think Australians will accept that. I'm certain we will accept that very readily provided the thing is done in a very scientific fashion," he said.

Senator Heffernan called for a campaign to dispel the myths about recycled water.

He said a referendum on recycled water in the Queensland town of Toowoomba last year had failed because people had "played politics".

While the Toowoomba referendum was a setback for recycled water advocates, recent surveys have found a majority support it.

A Newspoll in December found 70 per cent of people would not object to drinking recycled sewage.

Sydney Olympic Park water and energy manager Andrzej Listowski has been running the facility on recycled sewage since 2000.

"The quality of the water is fantastic, it's just as pure as ordinary drinking water but we don't use it for drinking because of the public opposition to it," he said yesterday.

The water system at Olympic Park and in the nearby suburb of Newington uses recycled sewage for toilets, washing clothes, airconditioners and irrigation.


Ronald Tubbs said...

Now that Cowboy Bill is on the case for recycled water does that mean he too has been drawn into the conspiracy of trying to poison millions will a new science all for the good of multinationals? or does it simply mean that this area of science is being understood by the mainstream increasingly as a rational means of solving some of our water needs thus pushing the objectors further towards the lunatic fringe?

Stuart Khan said...

Hello Ronald,

I personally don’t subscribe to either of your two theories. I think people who object to potable water recycling generally have legitimate concerns which they are entitled to have addressed. Referring to such people (which is clearly a large proportion of the Australian population) as ‘the lunatic fringe’ is neither accurate nor constructive.

Anonymous said...

The last paragraph of this story is what we would all agree to, so why do we all have to be made out to be simple because we do not want to drink this sewage treated water?
There no long term study where the community have been using this "water" straight into the drinking supply.
Show us the studies please.

Ronald Tubbs said...

I guess you are right Stuart I just get frustrated with the doomsayers about potable water recycling.. they remind me of the same group of people who do not immunise their kids against infectious diseases and then scream blue bloody murder because their kid died of hooping cough or the german measles! but i accept your concilitory point and shall be more empathetic in future and should one of them knock on my door for a refreshing glass of potable water when the damn dries up I will share it with them without a 'told youse so' expression on my face!!

Stuart Khan said...

G’day Anonymous,

Yes, I also strongly support dual reticulation recycled water schemes. They can be a very effective means of providing recycled water for limited uses at new development areas (such as Newington which is mentioned in the above story). We have some great examples in Australia and I plan to showcase some of them here soon.

However, we need to be realistic and accept that retrofitting an entire new plumbing system in existing suburbs is simply not going to happen. It would be prohibitively expensive (and also rather disruptive). We get to a point where it becomes significantly more economically viable to invest instead in treating and managing the water to a potable standard. Of course, this approach also comes with social costs (unhappy members of the community) and this must be included in any consideration.

The best studies that I can provide demonstrating the safety of recycled “water” are described here in a previous post. I have been grateful for the feedback that I have received so far and would also be grateful to receive any further feedback from you.

Thanks Ronald Tubbs,

I’m pleased to hear that you would part with a glass of water without admonishing the asker, -that’s very big of you!

Greg said...

Tim Flanerry is wrong about the Toowoomba vote.
Climate change and perpetual drought were some of the lame excuses they used to try and get Tooowoomba residents to vote yes.
Just enough rain to keep recycling going and yet not enough to not need it - LMFAO. We need more dams and or desal or more rain, recycling is and should only be a small part of a solution for a growing population and drinking recycled effluent should not be forced upon us, we are a democracy not a communist state. I grow tired of all the scare and or force tactics being implemented to try and get us to accept drinking it by certain people.

Stuart Khan said...

Thanks Greg,

After giving it some thought, I THINK I know what is meant by LMFAO. However, I am intrigued by your need to make the point that "we are a democracy not a communist state". Is there a democracy on Earth where elected representatives don’t make significant decisions on managing water supplies?

Stuart Khan said...


I’ll admit it, I had to Google it to work out what LMFAO meant. However, in the process I discovered some nice gift ideas at a sight called Cool Acronyms. Is there nothing you can't buy on the internet?

Anonymous said...

I must admit the arcticle concerning toowoomba did have merit. People did play politics and unfortunatley the Toowoomba council didnt help.

However, the no vote seems to forget Toowoomba did not vote not to recyling, to quote the no propoganda, they voted no to put all options on the table. Not once during the campaign by the no vote did they actually put peer reviewed scientific evidence on the table.

Time clouds the mind.

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