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Salty water anytime, but we won’t drink sewage!

By Charles Essery - posted Monday, 14 October 2019

Not a polite, tactically correct title, but as the slogan said on the limited-edition baseball caps of my regional water and sewerage staff in NSW… "Let's talk sh*t!"

In 2005, the then NSW Water Minister proudly announced, "we will not have Sydneysiders drink sewage", in defence of the indefensible Sydney desalination plant. Emotive words, but an absolute distortion of how pure potable recycled water really is, and intentionally so. Fear, scaremongering and flippant catch phrases are the domain of politicians. But why do we listen to them, when common sense and scientific fact contradict everything they say?

Simple, emotive yet erroneous statements obscure the obvious solution to our current and future water crises that are likely to occur more frequently, due to the expanding water requirements of our growing population. We cannot afford this nonsense to continue.


The solution has been with us for millennia and the technology to deliver it has been used and applied for nearly 50 years around the world. In the water industry it's known as either Direct or Indirect Potable Water Recycling.

Mother nature has done it for nearly 4 billion years by simply evaporating water from oceans, to form clouds and delivering clean rainwater to our land, catchments and rivers. It has been known for nearly a century now that for people living in London, the clean water they drink has been through the kidneys and bowels of seven or more people and has been reliably processed to safe drinking water quality for them to drink.

The treated sewage wastewater from Canberra sewage treatment plant travels along the Murrumbidgee River on its 40+ day trip to Adelaide, where it combines with all the 'dirty' water from the Murray Darling Basin and supplies Adelaide with perfectly clean recycled drinking water (having also been sucked in to be treated to drinking water quality and disposed of several times by towns in between!). The same can be said for the Rhine (Germany), Volga (Russia), Mississippi (USA), Yangztse (China), Nile (North Africa)….. get the picture… most water supplies in the world.

Annually, there are about 20+ national and international conferences around the world where the so-called best and brightest gather to share knowledge and experiences on water recycling. For example:

· October 2019, Melbourne: National Water Recycling & Reuse

· October 2019, Sydney 10th World Congress :Reduce and Recycle Waste for Sustainable Waste Management


· June 2019, Berlin: Int. Water Assoc. Water Reclamation & Reuse

· May, 2019, Sydney, Ozwater, Australia's International Water Conference

· March 2019, California, Water Reuse Annual Symposium

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About the Author

Charles Essery is an independent water consultant, who has been an Australia resident since 1990.

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