Toowomba is Ausralia’s largest inland regional city situated at the headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin. The population in the ‘Greater Toowoomba Region’ is 135,000 and expected to grow.
The Mayor of the city has committed to an ambitious waste water recycling program.
Some local irrigators are up-in-arms because they have been using the waste water to water their lucerne and other crops for about 60 years – and are going to lose access to this water.
Some local citizens are up-in-arms because they are being expected to drink “sewage” see, http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200508/s1443814.htm .
I am probably going to write this story up at some point in time and would be interested in information about other regional cities that are moving to recycle waste water – what it is costing, what it is delivering in terms of the social, economic and environmental impact and benefit?
Why not put it to the vote?
Toowoomberitians could vote “yes” or “no” then live by the consequences.
Louis Hissink says
On what basis is the idea that human populatons increase without limit? This is simply a description of cancer.
Phillip Done says
Sound yukky but Singaporeans do it …
If they do the right job on the osmosis it will probably be better than what they’re drinking now.
And it’s not going straight in the mains – into one of their water reservoirs first I hear.
Of course you could stop hosing the driveway with your new Kmart hose.
Andrew Bartlett says
I thought the irrigators were still going to be able to access water, but might have to pay more for it. (I could be wrong about that bit though). In any case, it the water is going to be fully recycled rather than just disposed of as one-off irrigation, that is far more efficient in the long run, particularly given the inevitable water shortage crunch that Toowoomba is facing.
Beattie should be pursuing this technology for all of the South-East rather than just building more dams and weirs, which is what seems to be the focus at the moment.
The distance from Luggage Point in Brisbane to the North Pine resevoir is shorter than the distances that Toowoomba is going to pump its water – which should mean lower cost (and energy) on piping and on pumping (and there’s less uphill pumping than what Toowoomba has to do out of its closest water storage too as I understand it).
Really, it’s pretty silly that Toowoomba is going to all the trouble of piping its purified water all the way back to the resevoir to add it into water that is far lower quality.
Andrew Bartlett says
Sipping Sewage in Toowoomba
I think governments in Australia have been pissweak (if you’ll pardon the pun) for not pursuing water recycling a lot more strongly. They seem to be scared about how hard it might be to sell to the public.
Phillip Done says
Beattie ought to be implementing the technology – but after the weekend by-election results he won’t be.
Brisbane doesn’t have fluoride in water and won’t be after many attempts … you’d have buckley’s selling recycled effluent water up there to the masses (regardless of facts).
my reservations about drinking the stuff are all the past control failures behind other major disasters– too often experts initially had insufficient knowlege/expertise– recycle every waste drop for use, except for drinking.
jennifer marohasy says
Millima, Which past failures?
If drinking recycled sewage is safe, why is the Federal Government, through the Australian Research Council, providing university grants to determine how to make it safe? Why is there a 2005 Federal Parliamentary report that says more research on recycled water is required? Why is there a 2002 Federal Senate report saying there is insufficient evidence showing the water is safe?
Recycled sewage for drinking should be a last resort and the Council should examine all alternatives before spending my money and your money on a long-term option. There are other alternatives and Toowoomba has time to make the correct choice.
It is the Council’s responsibility to establish that there are no long-term effects from drinking recycled sewage not for others to prove the opposite.
Distraught Labor Supporter says
I was atounded to find out that the State Government is actually supporting this foul, socially and economically damaging plan simply because the other ideas cost more. I think they should rename there political party to RE Party and hire the Mayor of Toowoomba as there Mentor.
Wal Emery says
Hey, let’s get fair dinkum! Water recycling has happened for years. Why is it not OK to recycle waste water back to Toowoomba, but it is OK for the residents of Dalby and Chinchilla and Adelaide to drink the same water? After all, Brisbane receives waste water from other towns. Are the nay-sayers and flat-earthers too good to drink recycled water because they live on top of the range?
Gerg Cameron says
Toowoomba Water Futures
Rainwater tanks are dismissed as an option for Toowoomba’s future water supply based on cost estimates which are incorrect.
The “Toowoomba Water Futures” plan estimates that the cost of fitting a 10KL rainwater tank to 35 000 Toowoomba houses is $175m while the water yield per house is 25KL. On these figures, a rainwater installation costs $5 000 and yields 25KL of water per household at an average cost of $7/KL. Obviously these costs are not affordable when the cost of mains drinking water in Toowoomba is $0.64/KL.
A 5KL rainwater supply system involving one or more tanks will yield 77KL of water (under current drought conditions) and will cost $2 500 per house if installed for 35 000 existing houses.
The cost of rainwater will be about $1.40/KL and the addition to the water supply will be 2.7 billion litres per year or 25% of all drinking water used in Toowoomba. Rainwater yield of 77KL will supply 57% of the indoor water needs of an average Toowoomba household each year.
The low cost is achieved by using a blow moulding machine for manufacturing plastic rainwater tanks, and by training teams of specialist installers.
The cost of the machine and tooling to manufacture 1250 litre plastic rainwater tanks is about $8 million. A single machine makes one tank every five minutes and can produce 70 000 tanks a year.
Crews of plumbers, electricians and installers can install 50 systems per day. This means that within two years, every house in Toowoomba could be supplied with its own rainwater system delivering one one-half of indoor water requirements.
The investment in technology and work crews is justified if every house is supplied.
Tanks of 1250 litres capacity are rectangular, slim and low. They fit neatly and unobtrusively beneath the eave of a house. More importantly, they enable four tanks to be positioned to capture water from all downpipes of an average house.
The Federal Government has conditionally offered Toowoomba $23M for the proposed water recycling scheme. Were a grant of $8M to be made to finance the cost of one blow moulding machine, this would ensure that the cost of tanks would be limited to the variable cost of manufacture – comprising labour and materials.
Using Council’s own figures, the subsidy would be worth $2 500 per household. The machine can supply 175 000 houses between Toowoomba and Brisbane over the next 10 years and therefore it will be fully utilised. The cost of the subsidy over 175 000 households is $45 per household.
The State Government owns mains drinking water. It has the legal right to mandate reduced mains drinking water consumption and it can do so at point of sale of property to ensure that the cost is captured as part of the transaction and is fair to all. Rainwater tanks can be deemed to comply with a mandatory requirement to reduce mains drinking water consumption. Installing a rainwater supply would be 1% of the average cost of a house in Toowoomba.
Properties are sold on average every seven years.
Plastic blow moulding technology is just one example of how to secure lowest cost of rainwater tanks. Other technologies exist for high volume manufacture of steel rainwater tanks.
It can be clearly demonstrated to Council that technology and installation systems exist to make rainwater tanks a cost effective source of additional water supply if Local, State and Federal Governments will undertake a serious appraisal of the possibilities.
Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd
PO Box 498
Benalla VIC 3671
03 576 33339
Trevor Acfield says
It is the incredibly poor political process that has been the major stumbling block in the recycling debate in Toowoomba in my view.
Firstly council did absolutely no consultation with the community before it applied for funds from the Water Initiatives Programmme (about 1/3 of the estimated $68m cost of the project).
Considering that the Water Initiatives Programme states in their funding guidelines that the community consultation is a ‘critical’ component of the application process, it was still accepted by the Federal government. Councils application should have been ineligible.
Council has done nothing but defend its position ever since and put to the community that the science and technology proves that recycling is the only option. All other options were ignored despite the community knowing otherwise.
What council doesn’t talk about is the relationship it has with CH2M Hill, who it is alleged has
1. Convinced council that recycling was the only option. Council’s position only months prior to the application was no to recycling to potable standards.
2. Assisted council apply for funding (to what degree is not discussed)
3. Gained considerable funds to assist in the education package that includes the water Futures booklet, TV ads and other written materials.
It goes without saying that CH2M Hill is expected to be the winner in the tender process (and maybe the only applicant).
If this is all true, it is clearly a conflict of interest and as complete mismanagement of public funds.
While some in the community just can’t stand the idea of drinking sewage (the yuk factor), for myself and many others we do not know if council has the best option and it won’t give the community a voice.
There is a vote on the issue on July 29, because the Commonwealth demanded it of council prior to funding approval. The likelihood is a close call, which in the end will only prove how divided the community is on this issue. I am sure that if the ‘yes’ case only wins narrowly, I can’t see the funding being approved. Then what to a mayor and five councillors who have done nothing but defend from the corner with guns loaded? The shame for the pro recyclers is that a proper consultation process may have indicated to all of us that recycling was a plausible option.
recycled water is a big problem around the world, some area still have no method to solve this question, i think my country China can learn about your method , i will sent some government stuff to here and ask some experence