I seek to make this blog strongly independent and non-partisan as much as possible, so seeing my previous post had a grumpy dig at some federal Liberals, I thought I would balance the scales here by having a rant about the continued cowardly foolishness of the Labor Premiers in refusing to adopt the use of purified recycled water. In some ways this is worse, as my criticism of some Liberals was for engaging in some breathtaking bullshit, which one could argue is moderately harmless in isolation. On the other hand, Labor Premiers have been engaging in a major prolonged policy blunder which is harming our water supplies and will inevitably lead to greater cost and greater environmental impact than would otherwise have been the case.
To add to the inexcusableness, John Howard is sounding as strongly pro-recycling as I am, yet the Labor Premiers are still refusing to move purely because they are scared of a supposed political backlash. 18 months ago, NSW Minister Frank Sartor openly admitted this, saying “the scientists are right, but the scientists ought to get on talkback radio and tell Sydneysiders there won’t be a mishap”.
Morris Iemma has become Premier since then, but the stance remains the same, as it does with the Labor Premiers in South Australia and Victoria. It’s all the more bizarre given that parts of western Sydney already drink water that’s been reprocessed after being discharged following treatment in sewage works upstream. According to this piece in today’s SMH, recycling would have lower running costs and require two-thirds of the energy of the desalination plant that NSW is still looking at building.
The same article quotes Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre, who says “only a lack of political backbone” was stopping recycling. He also notes it would be saving money compared to building extensive dual reticulation systems, as well as desalination. What sort of government insists on options which are more expensive, with larger environmental impact – while always looking for the federal government to help fund the dumb option.
I noted in an earlier post that Queensland’s Peter Beattie had finally decided to proceed with putting purified recycled water back into the water catchment of the dam supplying Brisbane’s drinking water. If he done this two years again when Toowoomba was first proposing indirect potable reuse of purified water, we’d be about ready now for Brisbane’s general water supplies to get a massive top up with water of a higher quality than what we’re already drinking. More listening to John Howard I say! (on this issue anyway)
UPDATE: 12th Feb. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald reports a survey finding that 78 per cent of Australians support recylced water being used to supplement drinking supplies. This sounds overly positive to me, but it does show that the extreme tentativeness of state governments to the issue is misplaced. With some genuine leadership on the issue, I believe there is a general level of acceptance amongst most people.