Country dwellers at greater risk of water contamination

Posted 14 September 2017

Boiling waterAreas of rural NSW have been subject to dangerous levels of pathogens through unfiltered drinking water pumped from rivers, lakes and dams, according to water contamination reports obtained by the ABC. 

Grafton, Kempsey, Scone, Jindabyne and Merimbula were cited as the worst-performing areas, with repeated contamination incidents. The documents also showed more than 100,000 NSW residents have been issued protective boil alerts in the last five years. 

While contamination has been caused by different sources in each region, the major issues were sewage system discharge, waterway faecal contamination from livestock and septic system failures. 

According to ABC Online, the documents also recommended the use of filtration systems to lift rural water supplies to the same standard enjoyed by city dwellers

Although it is not uncommon for rural water providers to supply unfiltered surface water treated with chlorine or UV disinfection, the approach is increasingly ineffective against resistant parasites such as cryptosporidium.

A letter from NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant to the Department of Primary Industries Executive Gavin Hanlon warned that many unfiltered supplies would not meet Australian drinking water guidelines, urging a whole-of-government approach to devise and fund local solutions.

The cost of applying filtration across rural NSW is estimated to cost between $1.5 to $2 billion.