Back in 2016 New Zealand had to deal with a massive Campylobacter outbreak and during that time a lot of people died and many of them also ended up being ill. However, that was a clear sign that reforming the country was imminent, and it started some changes that a lot of people appreciated. A similar situation might be coming to Australia at one point too, so are we ready for that?
According to Bligh Tanner associate and water quality scientist Michael Lawrence, the possibility is definitely there. He is a professional that worked with water providers all over Australia, and he acknowledges the fact that things are not perfect especially on the eastern seaboard. Some changes need to be made in order to avoid possible problems, but the results can be extraordinary and that’s the most important aspect to focus on.
Making some changes to the water systems in Australia is extremely important in order to prevent some problems. According to him, these changes need to be implemented adequately and as fast as possible, otherwise there are bound to be challenges and things to deal with. The good thing is that there are many water supplies all over the country. That’s true even for states where the ADWG regulations are into play.
This is also connecting to a failure related to the implementation of the ADWG guiding principles, which clearly state that drinking water is a crucial thing everyone needs to have, and we need to focus on maintaining the true focus to ensure everyone has clean water.
According to Lawrence, there are some supplies where we have a clear Cryptosporidium risk. These supplies are now managed by a single barrier. This barrier is basically a set of older treatment plants that can’t really offer the type of results that you may need, no matter how hard they are trying to achieve that at this point.
There are differences between the Australian and NZ water supply, but some of the issues that brought the Havelock North problem are still applying to Australia too. So the issues are there, just not as prevalent at least for the time being. Not having the right barriers in place and not considering the catchment risks are still problems that have to be solved, and solving them quickly is the obvious solution if we want to eliminate the hassle as fast as possible to eventually bring in much better results in the long run.
What we know is that the disease outbreak connected with the Tangalooma Island resort drinking water supply has confirmed water supplies can easily be contaminated, so finding a way to deal with that is a crucial aspect to take into consideration. It needs to raise some alarm bells however, as something like this needs to be solved fast otherwise there are bound to be some major concerns and problems.
Lawrence will talk about this at the Australian Water Association QWater 19 conference during this month alongside other managers in this industry. They are focused on raising awareness over the problem, something that needs to happen very quickly if anything is going to change here. But what we do know is that even if some mistakes happened recently, we need to find ways to deal with them and not repeat them again, as that will be extremely problematic.
At this time, the most important aspect is to understand what makes some of the current water drinking systems unsafe and what we can do in order to solve this issue. It seems the option is either shutting those systems down or heavily upgrading them. It’s a very important and delicate matter to think about, and the results definitely seem to be exciting and unique at the same time. That’s what really matters, the approach and how eventually everything is being brought together in a stellar and reliable manner. The potential is there, and the payoff can be amazing.
Repeating the same mistakes is obviously not something anyone wants to do, so the primary focus in all of this is to update everything and also making sure that the water is heavily tested to avoid any issues. Granted, this requires a complete upgrade in the entire country, so a lot of hard work is needed.
According to Lawrence, more water providers need to maintain the same systems that companies like Seqwater and TasWater are using. Implementing that is going to take a lot of time and money, but it can make a huge difference in the long run!