Water Recycling in Australia
Received: 3 August 2011 / Revised: 25 August 2011 / Accepted: 31 August 2011 / Published: 9 September 2011
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Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and, more importantly, experiences the most variable rainfall of all the continents on our planet. The vast majority of Australians live in large cities on the coast. Because wastewater treatments plants were all located
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Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and, more importantly, experiences the most variable rainfall of all the continents on our planet. The vast majority of Australians live in large cities on the coast. Because wastewater treatments plants were all located near the coast, it was thought that large scale recycling would be problematic given the cost of infrastructure and pumping required to establish recycled water schemes. This all changed when Australia experienced a decade of record low rainfall and water utilities were given aggressive targets to increase the volume of water recycled. This resulted in recycled water being accepted as a legitimate source of water for non-drinking purposes in a diversified portfolio of water sources to mitigate climate risk. To ensure community support for recycled water, Australia lead the world in developing national guidelines for the various uses of recycled water to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. Australia now provides a great case study of the developments in maximizing water recycling opportunities from policy, regulatory and technological perspectives. This paper explores the evolution in thinking and how approaches to wastewater reuse has changed over the past 40 years from an effluent disposal issue to one of recognizing wastewater as a legitimate and valuable resource. Despite recycled water being a popular choice and being broadly embraced, the concept of indirect potable reuse schemes have lacked community and political support across Australia to date.