Recycling sewage

We discussed recycling sewage for drinking water this morning on the basis of what you told us. I've reproduced the notes below, and if you want notes plus tables, you can click here to download my original word document. Should mention that one of our partners, the Local Government Association of Queensland specifically asked us to do this poll. They did a quantitative poll last week (press release can be downloaded here ). But quants only tell you so much, and they had a specific interest in knowing the "why" of the issue. This information will presumably be taken into consideration in whatever action the south east Queensland mayors take.

  1. Huge turn-around in support since our last poll which was held in October last year.
  2. This time 76% support and only 17% oppose. Last time 47% supported and 35% disapproved. Political complexion of two polls roughly similar, apart from Greens, who are about 10% higher.
  3. Higher level of support than represented in the other available polls – LGAQ 60.9% in favour in SE, 27.6% against. CM poll 66 percent support, 18 percent opposed. I did a sub-sample balanced by voting intention against Newspoll’s results, which gave 73% support, 19% opposed. Reasonably close, but outside the error margin.
  4. Reason for move in support probably lies in the Toowoomba poll. It has educated us about the issue, and it has also set-up a dynamic where the rest of the state doesn’t want to be dictated to by a small, unrepresentative, rural vote.
  5. Greens are most heavily supportive (89%), and Nationals the least (51% support).
  6. Whether respondents thought Toowoomba’s result ought to affect the rest of the state rested pretty heavily on whether they supported the recycling proposal or not.
  7. More people opposed Beattie’s referendum than supported it. Only Labor voters were in support, but only to 51%.
  8. Reasons for opposing the proposal
    1. Not enough knowledge
    2. “Yuk” factor
    3. Rationing, fix waste
    4. Safety of recycled water (including hormones)
    5. Other alternatives, like tanks, desalination
    6. Shouldn’t have to pay the price for other people’s bad planning
    7. Potential for system breakdown
  9. Reasons for supporting the proposal
    1. Much drinking water already originally contains sewage
    2. Less damage to the environment than alternatives
    3. Safe
    4. No alternative
    5. Recycling is good
  10. What would make you change your mind?
    1. More information
    2. Armageddon
    3. Trialed successfully
    4. Only used for industry and agriculture
    5. Full dams
    6. If it was proven to be unsafe
  11. Should the Toowoomba result affect the rest of the state
    1. Should be indicative of the state of Queensland
    2. Every area should decide for itself
    3. Rednecks
    4. Politicians should make decisions
    5. Need better education
    6. Abandoned by state and federal politicians, not enough resources for “Yes” case.
    7. One small group shouldn’t dictate to the rest of the state
    8. Incompetent “Yes” campaign.

Verbatims (please note that all quotes are reproduced exactly as they were typed into our system, including typos and grammatical errors):

“I think Recycled sewerage water could be used as a source of water for other areas of the household preferrably not for drinking however I have heard scientifically that the water after treatment is safer than most water - it is the concept that is difficult to overcome.” Female, 31-40, Greens.

“The debate has been too emotive on both sides. The Greens make recycling sound like the Messiah whilst for Labor it is the Armageddon” Male, 31-40, Nationals

“If every home collected rain water suffient for the household useage, there wouldn't be any need for recycling. We have lost our home to Mr Battie's Wet Dream (the Traveston Dam) and although we oppose the building of dams in unsuitable places, we still stongly oppose recyling sewage water. We live in a very dry area and have three rainwater tanks and an Ozziecycle to protect the environment. This water is supposed to be pure enough to drink. If this is so, why can't people living in the Buffer Zone around the proposed dams stay where they are and continue using the recycling method? No. The State want all septics systems and personal recycling systems no closser than 200m....why if the water is supposed to so pure?” Female, 51-60, Greens

“in some town in germany they did try it, after sometime the company wanted to cut costs and took out about 1/4 of the scrubbing process (part of the filtering) and within 3 months most of the town was sick with stomach problems. The garbage collections company is already talking about cutting costs and yet the want to privatise the water we drink as well !?” Male, 18-30, Labor

“Our water supply is not endless - we MUST get smarter about using it and valuing it. AND anyone who thinks our water supply already doesn't have heaps of sewage, animal droppings, dead animals, rubbish etc - has never gone rowing on Brisbane River!” Female, 31-40, Greens “

It helps to improve water quality in out rivers, saves buidling dams, is cheaper, more sustainble (dams are letting us down), solves the water supply problem, and uses less energy than desalination.” Female, 61+, Greens

“The only objection I've seen is of the "I don't want to drink sewerage" variety - hardly an argument and not what's being proposed. All wate is recycled and the proposal is to speed up/complement the natural cycle by pumping the recycled water into dams from where it will be treated like all the water there. What's not to like about that? They could recycle it to potable water standard and pipe it straight to my tap for all the problems I see with it. It's more energy efficient than desalination and apart from some pipes and pumps to move it from the recyling plants to the dams the infrastructure is largely already in place. Who cares where the water starts as long as what comes out of the tap is to the required standard? This pandering to the fearful and ignorant and calling it democracy is a cowardly abdication of government's responsibility to provide such a basic service.” Male, 41-50, Labor (Liberal last election)

“nothing. i am a microbiologist. i know the truth.” Male, 31-40, Labor

“If the same clowns as have ruined Qld Health and the electricity grid are in charge of purefying the water.” Male, 51-60, Independent

“Because I think we need a vigorous public education campaign to make sure people actually know the facts about water recycling. As far as I'm concerned there is no "No" case they have no facts whatsoever behind them. An small, ill-informed electorate (Toowoomba) should not decide for the wider community something of this importance.” Male, 18-30, Greens.

“N/A If you look at the demographics of the people in Toowoomba it is obviopus that they would not support recycling. they are of that generation. I know my sister lives there and she voted no yet she is quite hgappy to drink my tank water which is probably polluted by bird shit and dead lizards” Male, 61+, Labor

“The toowoomba residents now have bee nrightly portraid as ignorant hics” Male, 31-40, Greens “

The Toowoomba vote was not handled well by the 'yes' proponents in that they appeared arrogant and the perception to the community was 'we know best, take it or leave it'. The community did not like it being shoved down their throats.” Male, 41-50, Liberal “

The residents of Toowoomba were undoubtedly influenced by the prior political rhetoric of Premier Beattie. His government is on record as recently as late 2004 stating the Toowoomba has reserves that would last to at least 2015. A few weeks ago using recycled water in Wivenhoe would only be an "armageddon" solution. Is it any wonder that residents of Toowoomba were lead to believe that use of recyled water was unnecessary!!” Male, 41-50, Liberal

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+1 #21 CommentAmber 4350 2006-08-17 18:44
With an election on September 9, all Queenslanders now have the opportunity to vote whether they want recycled sewage water in their drinking water or not.

If you want recycled sewage water in your drinking water - Vote for Labor.

If you want fresh water in your drinking water - Vote for the Coalition
-1 #22 CommentPhilip Orr 2006-08-21 00:49

I am a water quality scientist. It makes no sense to put highly treated and exceptionally clean recycled water (RO water) back into Wivenhoe dam, it is too expensive to make and too clean.

RO (reverse osmosis) water is laboratory grade water suitable for use in scientific laboratories and hospitals. It should be put back into the Brisbane River at Mt Crosby weir to reduce treatment pressure and treatment costs at the 2 Mt Crosby water treatment plants.

L ess treated water would be ideal to put back. With CSIRO showing inputs from the Bourke sewage treatment plant into the Darling River are completely mitigated by 30km downstream (ie about 1 days flow). Water spends nearly 5 years in Lake Wivenhoe and organics are biodegraded very quickly (within days) so the claims against endocrine disruptors (hormones and other chemicals) is a scare factor put up by politicians with vested interests (like Berghofer and cronies including Lawrence Springborg). In drinking water they are scientifically (but unfortunately not politically) irrelevant.

0 #23 Commentfredrick 2006-08-25 02:17
i am strongly agaist recycled water, just the thought of my shit being turned into water makes me sick.
0 #24 CommentJennifer 2006-08-25 20:01
It's funny how people say it's done all over the world and then the only example they can give is Singapore (at 1%). Toowoomba was set to be 25-29% recycled sewage.

I laughed at the person who said 'Firstly make a commitment never again to allow anyone in your presence to call water ,“ recycled sewage.”'

The number one mistake. Toowoomba City Council and others tried to avoid calling the water what it is - and people were suspicious of such a need to hide the facts.
0 #25 CommentIan BATTISSON 2006-08-30 20:08
Let's send the polititions a calculator - if you can't give a fresh drink to the people who are already here, why bring up to another 200,000 every year? - I don't particularly care if the foreigners, (who bought our land and businesses at 50-75% of the price courtesy of an artificially deflated AU$), get their cheap labour or not, and, if they want imported cheap labour, pay for their own infrastructure etc.
0 #26 CommentMalcolm 2006-11-18 19:36
Back 30 or 40 years ago, the then Lord Mayor, Clem Jones borrowed the funds needed to complete the sewering of Brisbane, and we paid for it with an increase in rates.

Why not do the same with harvesting rainwater, the Council installs suitable rainwater tanks to every house, unit, and business throughout the greater Brisbane area, and we pay them off over decades by a small rate levy.

This way, clean rainwater is captured before it becomes runoff and is contaminated.
It's less expensive and less invasive than building dams, we know it rains in the populated areas, but not over the dam catchment.

The tanks and hardware are all Australian made, creating more jobs for Aussies.
Even if the water was only used for the toilet flush, washing machines and the hotwater system, the savings in consumption would add up.
0 #27 CommentBill 2007-01-30 18:45
Recycled water is pretty safe to drink...SOME experts advise us.

Hormone Replacement Therapy was/is also pretty safe to take...SOME experts told/tell us.

Human Growth Hormone (pituitary-deri ved) was also pretty safe...SOME experts told us.

Thalidomide was also pretty safe to take...SOME experts told us.

So don't worry, trust them. Especially those experts that the Qld Goverment may quote. After all, Anna Bligh is recently quoted as saying " The advice we have is this water, purified and treated to the appropriate level, is 100 per cent safe." 100%!!! How can we go wrong
0 #28 CommentTom Chilcott 2007-05-04 05:00
I'm a 17 year old student attending St Josephs college in Toowoomba. When the recent water vote was turned down I was outraged at how selfish some people can be. To me, it seems as though it's the older generations that are the majority of 'No' voters. Fortunately for them, they won't have to grow up dealing with a problem that could have been solved, or at least improved using recycled water! I think it was a foolish idea in having a vote in Toowoomba. We have a history of being the 'Bible Belt'. Everyone is generally closed minded to change. History shows that there has Never been a Federal level vote in Toowoomba that has been a 'Yes' vote. Perhaps this vote should have been positioned in brisbane, where there is more open views to our water CRISIS.

This water crisis affects everyone in everyway. We need to stop worrying about drinking so-called 'poo-water' (Proven to be CLEANER then current drinking standards) and get over it.

Rain tanks are a great idea.. when it rains. So until then, we'll just keep drinking our dams dry, and perhaps when water totally runs out, people will finally understand the impact of voting 'No' for this postive change.
0 #29 Commentella thomson 2007-10-19 05:26
hi i am in a program at school and we have to make a movie and solve a problem which is kind of like a drought but alot harder and i you would love it if you could give me some more info or some websitesthat could help me bye ('-')('-')('-)
0 #30 Commentella thomson 2007-10-19 05:28
hi i am in a program at school and we have to make a movie and solve a problem which is kind of like a drought but alot harder and i you would love it if you could give me some more info or some websitesthat could help me bye ('-')('-')('-)