Treated effluent coming soon to a tap near you!

12 January 2012

USA: Projected water shortages in the US have prompted an evaluation of whether treated sewage (wastewater effluent) can be used to augment potable (drinkable) water supplies.

With recent advances in technology and design, treating municipal wastewater and reusing it for drinking water, irrigation, industry, and other applications could significantly increase the nation’s [USA] total available water resources, particularly in coastal areas facing water shortages, says a new report from the National Research Council. It adds that the reuse of treated wastewater, also known as reclaimed water, to augment drinking water supplies has significant potential for helping meet future needs. Moreover, new analyses suggest that the possible health risks of exposure to chemical contaminants and disease-causing microbes from wastewater reuse do not exceed, and in some cases may be significantly lower than, the risks of existing water supplies.

In South Africa, “treated” wastewater (and I use the term ‘treated’ with a lot of latitude) has for decades formed a significant part of the water required to fill major storage dams in various parts of the country.  Most of these dams, around 45% of total storage, are now severely eutrophic (enriched with nutrients and ‘other stuff’), with consequent and negative impacts on the dam as an ecosystem, as well as on human health where the concept of ‘treated’ leaves a lot to be desired.

As the aforementioned report states:

Many drinking water treatment plants draw water from a source that contains wastewater discharged by a community located upstream; this practice is not officially acknowledged as potable reuse.

No, it hasn’t.  It has always been part of the “lets dump it in a dam first and then treat it after the dam has diluted it a bit.  People are happier if they think their water comes from a dam and not directly from the sewage works!  In many cases, the dams have simply become an extension of the sewage works, but very few have noticed this!

Lost Creek’s (ORE) algal bloom advisory, hanging around since mid-September, has been lifted.  The following warning is, however, still in place:

Warnings for people and pets to stay out of the water remain for Sru Lake in Coos County and Gerber Reservoir in Klamath County.  Drinking toxin-tainted water can cause vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory failure and, rarely, death.

AUSTRALIA:  Lake Natimuk has been reopened following the results of tests today.

The City of Gosnells is working hard to reduce the amount of silt and sediment getting into their rivers from building sites.

The process of land development is being increasingly recognised as having significant potential to increase sediment loads to waterways. Researchers estimate that approximately 90% of sediment discharge that leaves an urban settlement in the first 20 years of its life, does so during the construction phase.

In the aftermath of the algal blooms in the Gippsland Lakes, fishermen are now required to clean and gut their catches before they can sell them – and they are not happy!

A blue-green algae outbreak on the Gippsland Lakes prompted authorities to initially ban lake fishing, but more recent tests indicate that if the fish are gutted and gilled they’re safe for human consumption.

Here at Mullet Bite, a small cove on Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes by the mouth of the Mitchell River, Arthur – a fisherman of 37 years, is removing the guts and gills of his daily catch.

Dressed in waders, with a small knife and a pair of kitchen gloves he takes to the fish like a surgeon, casting hundreds of intestines to the dozen or so pelicans that circle his boat. It’s a responsibility he doesn’t enjoy.

“It doubles our time input and labor input each day,” he says. “For a start we lose 20 per cent in weight; and the first few days of it, because of buyer resistance, our prices were 30 odd per cent down. “I believe they’ve stabled out now, but we’re still not getting any compensation for the extra labour or the weight that we lose.”

You decide whether its fair or not…

Officials in New South Wales are on the lookout for algal blooms as the high-risk season progresses:

Office of Water spokesman Brian Dodd says there are particular algal ‘hotspots’ along the coast where there is currently a watching brief.

“The main ones we look at are the town water supplies like Bray Park Weir up in the Tweed, the other dams around the lower north coast like Corwarra dam (at Port Macquarie) and the Stuart McIntyre dam (at Kempsey) which have had problems in the past,” he says.

“Also in the recreational areas like Lake Ainsworth.

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