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Does Australia need recycled water ambassadors to change public perceptions?

What’s an engaging way to get customers to embrace recycled drinking water? Use it to brew beer.

The City of San Diego in the US did just that as part of its Pure Water program, which aims to provide one-third of the city’s water supply through recycled water by 2035.

When the program launched a decade ago, community acceptance of potable reuse was 26%. This has since increased to 76% following a number of community engagement initiatives, including a partnership with Stone Brewing.

Seqwater Drinking Water Quality Continuous Improvement Coordinator Daniel Healy visited the San Diego program during a research trip to the US, and said the partnership was part of a growing trend.

“Finding ambassadors or trusted influencers seems to be an important part of community engagement in the US, including medical professionals and water experts such as brewers, but also non-expert celebrities and well-regarded community leaders,” he said.

Healy also visited Orange County’s groundwater replenishment scheme and the City of Wichita Falls’ indirect potable reuse/direct potable reuse scheme, and will present what he learnt at Ozwater’19.

This includes the most significant challenges facing water utilities when it comes to potable reuse, and how Seqwater is approaching the issue.

The utility is currently one year into a three-year communication, education and engagement program that aims to create a ‘water wise’ South East Queensland (SEQ).

“This is defined as communities that are connected to and value water, have opportunities to participate in decision making and take action to manage water sustainably,” Healy said.

“To achieve this, Seqwater is informing communities of the various water supply options, including climate-resilient sources such as purified recycled water and desalination.”

As recycled water becomes an increasingly important resource, with population growth and climate change putting pressure on existing sources, Healy said it is important to address any negative perceptions customers might have.

“While the construction of the purified recycled water scheme in South East Queensland was contentious during the Millennium Drought, it remains an important part of the SEQ Drought Response Plan,” he said.

“In line with the plan, Seqwater will begin recommissioning the scheme when water supply levels reach 60%.

“As a result, having a social license for the operation of the scheme is a critical part of ensuring water security for the region.”

Hear more about Seqwater’s community engagement program at Ozwater’19. To register, click here.

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