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‘Treat your water’

Tuesday, 20th March, 2018

Professor Peter Waterman. Professor Peter Waterman.

By Craig Brealey

Safe drinking water was a right that everyone should enjoy but in parts of outback Australia the quality of the water was third-world standard, a visiting professor told a public meeting last night.

Peter Waterman, Adjunct Professor with the Institute for Land Water and Society at Charles Sturt University, said places like Broken Hill that had a supply that was tested, filtered and treated were well served.

However, on station properties and some townships in the Far West it was often a different story, Prof. Waterman said at the meeting held at the Democratic Club.

“Are your needs being met?” he asked. “In Broken Hill, yes, but if you are on a station you are on your own.”

Stations and some remote towns draw their water from bores, dams and tanks, and that means it must be treated to make it safe for domestic use and for stock.

Prof. Waterman said sample testing of such reserves on nearly 300 stations in Queensland found that three-quarters of them had bacteria.

The presence of bacteria indicated a risk that the water could cause legionella, meningitis or other types of illness, he said.

The same problems were found in “third world” countries in which he had worked, including the Pacific islands and Sri Lanka, the professor said. 

This was despite the Commonwealth Water Act of 2007 stating that “critical human needs” were to be given the highest priority - that is, before industry, agriculture and stock, he said.    

“It is a moral issue, an ethical issue. They rate you, they tax you, but they don’t support you.”

The best solution to the problem was, therefore, for people to get together and share information about how to make their drinking water safe, Prof. Waterman said.

He said finding and disseminating this information had been made much easier with the advent of the internet, upon which could be found practical ways to chlorinate, filter and disinfect untreated water.

The best advice came from government health and water department websites, he said.

Prof. Waterman also said people should not drink from rainwater tanks unless they treated the water by allowing the “first flush” of rain to drain away and adding filters and chlorine to their tank.

Today Prof Waterman will hold a public meeting in White Cliffs and Wilcannia; in Menindee on Wednesday, and Pooncarie on Thursday.

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