Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Water Options - Goulburn

There has been much discussion about recycled water, and other water options, for Toowoomba, Goulburn and other towns and cities. Some of the argument has been emotional, drawing heavily on "the yuk factor" psychology. I attended a meeting in Goulburn this week to discuss its water supply. It does concern me that a "water" group would summarily dismiss the concept of water recycling.

We must remember that there is a fixed catchment area and that we can't control when and how much it rains. We therefore need to make best use of our water, including methods to augment the water supply.

For Goulburn, in particular, there have been a number of suggestions, including:
  • increasing the number of (rain)water tanks. This is a worthwhile idea, and should be further encouraged, bearing in mind it will affect the volume of water flowing into the river as stormwater, and this will affect people downstream.
  • encouraging tap assemblies that reduce the amoujnt of water wasted while people wait for the hot water to flow. Again, this is a good idea.
  • a pipeline from Pejar Dam to Sooley Dam. A number of routes were suggested, including partway along the river, and circuiting Mt Wayo. But what of property owners who have river frontage? Do we deny them any rights to water released from Pejar?
  • pumping water from the Shoalhaven ("Sally's Corner") or from the Snowy Mountains. These are big projects and I don't think there are recent feasibility studies on them. Such studies would need to include the political, environmental, economic and engineering aspects. I think they would fail the "political feasibility" test, at least.
  • Carting water (from parts unknown, possibly the ACT). This is not sustainable for any length of time, and will cost teh ratepayers, & water users, dearly.
  • Installing a second pipe to carry recycled water to buildings. This might be possible for new developments, but the cost would be prohibitive for existing buildings. Re-using old gas pipes - the old ones were wooden, made by coopers in the 19th century, and were replaced because they leak.
  • Building more weirs on the rivers. Again, this does not really improve the total supply, unless they all overflow, in which case there is probably amle water. Furthermore, if ther is limited water flow in the rivers, the water in the weirs will remain still, and algal blooms will grow, creating a health hazard.
  • Using recycled water for parks and gardens. The Australian Academy of Science suggests that the level of treatment for recycled water is governed by its use. If it is treated to a lower standard than drinking water, what are the risks to users of illness? What are the risks to Council's insurance rates, and the rates that people pay? If it is treated to potable standard, why not pump it into the water supply?
  • Pumping water from Kopford Reach to Sooley Dam. Kopford Reach is downstream from the Sewage Treatment Plant, and contains recycled water!

Water recycling involves all of the processes used to treat water from the water supply (dams & weirs) before entering the reticulation system: filtering, coagulating & flocculating removes more than 99.9% of bacteria and 99%viruses; then disinfection. (Figures from The Australian Academy of Science)

The suggestions from the meeting have varying degrees of merit. Some a re good, but using recycled water is one option for augmenting the water supply that ought not to be discarded.

The Analyst