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Authorities move to allay bore fears

Saturday, 21st March, 2015

By Craig Brealey

Nearly half of the water companies in NSW used bore water as part of their town supply, according to the State’s water authorities which are seeking to allay concerns in Broken Hill.

But desalinating the bore water was so expensive that it could never be a permanent supply, members of the Broken Hill Community Consultative Forum were told this month.

The forum heard from representatives of the NSW Office of Water and Water NSW (formerly State Water).

Yesterday, Water NSW project director, Josh White, said the long-term groundwater option was still being investigated and would only ever be a back-up supply.

Bores are being sunk near Lake Menindee and further south but even if a good supply was found, it would still have to meet stringent drinking water guidelines after being treated by the city’s Essential Water, Mr White said. 

The water would also first need desalination by reverse osmosis before being piped to Broken Hill.

But the use of bore water, although foreign to the city which has relied on reservoirs and, for 60 years, the Darling River, was fairly common in other towns, Mr White said.

“Forty-five out of 105 local NSW water utilities in 2012-13 used groundwater as part of their urban water supply,” he said.

“In fact, approximately 20 percent of water supplied to towns in regional NSW was groundwater.” 

But people should understand, he said, that if it was used as an emergency supply, it would have to be low salinity before it was piped from Menindee to Essential Water’s treatment plant.

There, Mr White said, it would emerge similar to the water the city now receives.

“The fact is in almost every respect, other than salinity, this groundwater is easier to treat than surface water, as it 

is crystal clear due to absence of contaminants such as colour and suspended particles which make water murky and discoloured.” 

Mr White said public concern that groundwater from a Menindee borefield might one day constitute the greater portion of our water supply “overlooked both pledges to the contrary and the hugely prohibitive cost”. 

“Desalinating water as long-term solution is very costly, so this would detract from its economic viability as a permanent solution, even if people find little comfort in official assurances,” he said.

NSW Office of Water’s Manager Water and Sewerage, Bill Ho, said people should also not be worried about the quality of the water.

All water treated for human consumption had to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), and Mr Ho said he would be “100 per cent certain” that water from any source could be treated to meet those guidelines, which were overseen by NSW Health.

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