Friday, January 20, 2006

Water - when will we run out?

I was very excited this week when I logged on to the Sydney Water dam update - we've had the best week since last July! So this week, we had enough new water in the dams to cover us for six weeks of normal consumption. It's still not enough, though. We do seem to be in a new, lower rain environment that if it keeps going, will see us run out of water in around six years.

So I was outraged this morning when I read in the Sydney Morning Herald that the government has been sitting on what seems to be an excellent and cheap way of substantially improving our water supply;
"Under the confidential proposal by the gas company AGL, disused gas mains would deliver recycled water to industry."
There has been a lot of talk about the willingness of Sydney residents to drink recycled water - politicians say they won't be, many activists say they haven't been asked. But it does slightly miss the point. To purify sewage to the level that it can be drunk is pretty similar to the level of effort required to purify seawater. So Bob Carr's famous description of desalinated water as "bottled electricity" applies almost as much to recycled water - if it is for drinking. But a lot of water used in Sydney is used by industry, so it doesn't need the same level of purification. So figuring out creative ways of getting grey water to industry seems a hugely worthwhile exercise that seems to have gone by the wayside in the public strategy.

I can't honestly think of a good reason for this proposal not to be explored. Even with my cynic's hat on, I didn't think Macquarie Bank was that enthusiastic about the desalination plant being built.


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