Scientists Say The Greatest Barrier To Australians Drinking Recycled Water Is Australians

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering says Australians recycled water could help Australia get through droughts, as long as people get over the “yuck factor” associated with it.

An ATSE report by UNSW water researcher Dr Stuart Khan, released today, recommended the practice of “direct potable reuse” (DPR), in which wastewater is treated and directly returned to the water supply as drinking water.

Khan explained that today’s advanced water treatment plant (AWTP) technology typically accomplished four objectives: removing suspended solids from wastewater; removing dissolved substances; disinfecting the water; and restoring water to the appropriate level of hardness and acidity.

“The science, technology and engineering associated with DPR have been rapidly advancing in recent decades,” ATSE reported.

“DPR is technically feasible and can safely supply drinking water directly into the water distribution system, but advanced water treatment plants are complex and need to be designed correctly and operated effectively with appropriate oversight.

“Potential obstacles or disadvantages for DPR … are primarily related to public perception and acceptance.”

The ATSE reported that there were no DPR projects or proposals in the works in Australia currently, with people tending to prefer indirect potable reuse (IPR), where water is treated then returned into a river, lake, reservoir or aquifer.

Stakeholders surveyed for the report said IPR offered an additional treatment barrier compared to DPR, allowed any remaining contaminants to be diluted, and provided “a perception of a disconnection between treated effluent and raw drinking water, to reduce the yuck factor”.

From the report:

The ATSE noted increasing use of DPR internationally – including in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas in the US, and Namibia and South Africa – highlighting “considerable environmental, economic and community benefits” of the technology.

It called on governments, community leaders, water utilities, scientists and engineers to help promote the implementation and acceptance of DPR in Australia.

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