Tougher water rules
AUSTRALIA’S top water quality expert has rejected suggestions new guidelines would “water down” quality standards.
Professor Don Bursill, who carried out an independent investigation of the Douglas region’s water supply network last year, said it was “ridiculous” to say water quality guidelines were being relaxed in the new guidelines, expected to come into force by the end of the year.
“There’s been no relaxation of the guidelines,” Prof Bursill said. “If anything, we’ve made things tougher, to ensure an even higher quality of drinking water.
“The current guidelines, and the new guidelines, both demand 100 per cent compliance.”
A front-page article in the Australian newspaper last week suggested the new guidelines would allow water utilities such as Cairns Water to pass muster with an e-coli contamination rate of 2 per cent.
However, Prof Bursill said the goalposts on e-coli had not been moved.
“Any e-coli detection requires immediate followup,” Prof Bursill said.
“Some small systems are only monitored once a week. In circumstances like that, it is possible to register a false positive.
“One false positive in 52 tests is possible, but it’s up to the regulator to decide whether any positive reading is a real one, or a false positive.”
Prof Bursill reiterated his belief the Douglas water supply system should be able to carry out chlorinefree operations.
“With proper maintenance and management, there shouldn’t be any pollution concerns in the system,” he said.
“That leaves free-living organisms, which will be supported by nutrients in the water. The main thing that counts against the system is high temperatures.
“I’m optimistic that (chlorine-free) trial will have a positive outcome.”