Australia urged to recycle more water for urban supplies

Greater use of recycled water in Australia's water supplies was called for on 29 November 2010 by James Cameron, acting CEO of the National Water Commission (NWC).

Releasing a position statement on urban water recycling at the National Recycled Water Regulators Forum, Cameron said that the NWC urged even-handed assessment of the relative merits of water recycling, including for drinking purposes.

The position statement says that greater recycling offers the prospect of more secure, less climate-vulnerable water supplies. It sees "unrealised potential also for environmental and urban amenity benefits".

The NWC therefore argues that arbitrary policy bans on recycled water should be removed so that recycling options can be considered alongside alternatives on their relative merits.

The paper says: "The Commission recognises there are intrinsic risks associated with recycled water. However, in our judgement, advances in science and improved regulatory arrangements mean that such risks can now be managed to levels of safety that are equivalent with other supply sources."

To capture the full potential of recycled water, leadership was required by governments and water-sector decision-makers. For its part the NWC declared itself an unambiguous supporter of expanded use of recycled water throughout Australia, subject to four conditions:

  • Prior cost/benefit and risk analyses were conducted which took full account of social and environmental externalities and avoided costs.
  • The best available science was utilised.
  • The project was subject to best practice regulatory arrangements (based on the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling).
  • The community participated in decisions to introduce recycling and that subsequent management arrangements were transparent and accountable.

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