Treated water: to drink or not?

THE Committee for Ballarat will be leading a push towards recycled water for the city. The committee's Water Task Team chair Tony Chew said yesterday that recycled water could provide a long-term solution to Ballarat's water woes and discussions were needed to avert a possible crisis in the future. He said cities such as London, Singapore and Los Angeles had all embraced recycled water and Brisbane was also scheduled to start introducing waste water to their supply next year."We just want Ballarat to have a sustainable supply and we think recycled water is an important component of that supply plan. And at the moment the State Government is not entertaining recycled water for Victoria and we want to open that debate," Mr Chew said.He said Ballarat could still run dry, particularly if low rainfall levels continued in the Goulburn Catchment area which supplies the Goldfields superpipe. "It's too late to put the infrastructure in once we're down to that critical situation," he said. The committee plans to approach the water minister and also the premier to get the issue of recycled water back on the table. "We will bring with us a large body of community and industry representatives, people who are concerned as I am about the long-term sustainability of this city," Mr Chew said."We want to get all the debates happening and hopefully get the government and community on side to accept that recycled water is a viable solution."Recycled water has been a contentious issue across Australia, most notably in drought-stricken Toowoomba where residents voted against drinking recycled waste water in July last year. Mr Chew said many people considered recycled water as "drinking raw sewerage", but the reality "couldn't be further from the truth"."Where we can we will introduce factual information into this debate," he said. Central Highlands Water chair John Barnes said although the State Government had ruled out drinking recycled water he believed there was still a case for cities such as Ballarat "sitting at the top of the catchment". "We welcome the committee of Ballarat opening this public debate," he said. "(But) any debate needs to be discussed in a dispassionate and balanced way."Ballarat Mayor Stephen Jones said the idea of drinking recycled water made him "squirm a bit", but it was definitely an option."They do it everywhere else around the world. Why can't we do it here?" he said.Cr Jones said the Goldfields superpipe only provided Ballarat with a short-term solution.