Recycled Water in Toowoomba

With the ever increasing threat of low dam levels due to the lack of rainfall in the south east, drinking recycled water may just be closer than we think. In the past the people of Toowoomba have voted against the use of recycled water. But times have changed and the subject has been revisited by the council. Though we have no confirmation on proposed developments as yet. I would be willing to say its only a matter of time. Many other cities around Australia have implemented the use of recycled water for years now. So if we are running low what’s to stop them?

Water Recycling

Water recycling involves the recovery or reclamation of water from wastewater for potable (drinking) or non-potable use, which can be supplied back to the water system either directly or indirectly.

Long term water security and resilience

Australia needs to ensure water security in a drying and variable climate, particularly in urbanised and city areas where rainfall and runoff have declined significantly. Recycled water can provide a reliable, climate-resilient and economically sound source of water, which can be an important component of a robust and resilient water supply system.

Recycled Water Sources

Recycling water from wastewater - The outflow of water from any system, such as a sewer network, sewage treatment plant or industrial water.

Greywater from households - Water that has been used in the hand basin, shower, bath, spa bath, washing machine, laundry tub that is captured at the household, building or precinct level. It is not the water from the toilet, kitchen sink or dishwasher as this is generally too high in grease and oil to be reused successfully without significant treatment.

Stormwater harvesting - Rainwater that is collected or harvested from stormwater drainage systems. IN urban areas this includes the rainwater runoff from roads, buildings and open lands, usually carried away by drains.

Is recycled water safe?

Recycled water when produced and used according to Australian guidelines is considered safe to humans and the environment. Australian Government.

Wastewater is much more than toilet water, of course. Think of all the water that goes down the drain every time you rinse an apple or hose off your car. That water is an untapped resource, and there’s a lot of it. “It is cheaper; it is a guaranteed resource,” says Peter Scales, a chemical engineer at the University of Melbourne in Australia. If an average city recycled all its wastewater, he says, it could reduce how much water it needed by 60%. (BBC)

A study worth a read given you have time, outlines the public concerns regarding water quality and safety.

Health aspects

Reclaimed water is considered safe when appropriately used. Reclaimed water planned for use in recharging aquifers or augmenting surface water receives adequate and reliable treatment before mixing with naturally occurring water and undergoing natural restoration processes. Some of this water eventually becomes part of drinking water supplies.

A water quality study published in 2009 compared the water quality differences of reclaimed/recycled water, surface water, and groundwater.[32] Results indicate that reclaimed water, surface water, and groundwater are more similar than dissimilar with regard to constituents. The researchers tested for 244 representative constituents typically found in water. When detected, most constituents were in the parts per billion and parts per trillion range. DEET (a bug repellant), and caffeine were found in all water types and virtually in all samples. Triclosan (in anti-bacterial soap & toothpaste) was found in all water types, but detected in higher levels (parts per trillion) in reclaimed water than in surface or groundwater. Very few hormones/steroids were detected in samples, and when detected were at very low levels. Haloacetic acids (a disinfection by-product) were found in all types of samples, even groundwater. The largest difference between reclaimed water and the other waters appears to be that reclaimed water has been disinfected and thus has disinfection by-products (due to chlorine use).

A 2005 study titled “Irrigation of Parks, Playgrounds, and Schoolyards with Reclaimed Water” found that there had been no incidences of illness or disease from either microbial pathogens or chemicals, and the risks of using reclaimed water for irrigation are not measurably different from irrigation using potable water.[33]

A 2012 study conducted by the National Research Council in the United States of America found that the risk of exposure to certain microbial and chemical contaminants from drinking reclaimed water does not appear to be any higher than the risk experienced in at least some current drinking water treatment systems, and may be orders of magnitude lower.[34] This report recommends adjustments to the federal regulatory framework that could enhance public health protection for both planned and unplanned (or de facto) reuse and increase public confidence in water reuse.

Many humans associate a feeling of disgust with reclaimed water and 13% of a survey group said they would not even sip it.[35] Nonetheless, the main health risk for potable use of reclaimed water is the potential for pharmaceutical and other household chemicals or their derivatives (Environmental persistent pharmaceutical pollutants) to persist in this water.[36] This would be less of a concern if human excreta was kept out of sewage by using dry toilets or systems that treat blackwater separately from greywater.

To address these concerns about the source water, reclaimed water providers use multi-barrier treatment processes and constant monitoring to ensure that reclaimed water is safe and treated properly for the intended end use. (wikipedia)


It seems that recycled water may be safe and a great option for the future. I personally would not like to drink it without treating it myself as an added precaution. After all, i do this regardless. Installing a domestic Reverse Osmosis unit is really the best way to ensure safe, clean, great tasting water. However I do think it is absolutely necessary that we look for alternate ways to provide water. I would not have an issue provided i had installed post treatment precautions