Future water options must include recycling: WSAA

Public preconceptions about recycling are inhibiting the long-term development of climate-resilient water sources, the country’s peak water industry body says.

The Waters Services Association of Australia has released a 68-page report, All options on the table: Urban water supply options for Australia, that finds the cost of purified recycling water for drinking is comparable to water from seawater desalination, and that groundwater offers a relatively  low-cost, reliable water supply even in times of drough.

“Balancing supply and demand efficiently requires us to consider a diverse range of supply, including recycled water and stormwater reuse,” the report says.

“[However], in some Australian states, not all options for water supply are on the table for planning decisions. The primary limitations are not technical, but rather around public perception and political will,” it says.

“In practice, it makes sense to have a portfolio of options available which includes both supply and demand side opportunities to ensure water resilience for cities and regions.”

The report says that in the case of purified recycled water for drinking, global and Western Australia experience has shown that any potential community concerns can be addressed through effective education and engagement.

Responding to lower winter rainfall and hotter summers in Perth, the Water Corporation adopted a three-pronged approach to secure water supplies, including:

  • Working with the community to reduce water use to help defer the need for investment in further new climate independent sources;
  • Developing new water sources, including groundwater; and
  • Increasing the amount of water recycled.

Intermittent drought, together with rapid population growth, mean planning for long term water security is more critical than ever, WSAA executive director Adam Lovell says.

“Robust and sustainable water industry planning means having all options on the table for consideration by local communities,” he said.