Drinking recycled sewage

The SMH makes out like its a bad thing. I really can’t see what the objection is to mixing drinking quality treated sewage back into the drinking water supply for further dilution and treatment. Sure I have a vague feeling of distaste for it, but I realise that is irrational and can get over it.

Sydney water estimates that to build a recycling plant to do 500ML like the proposed desalination plant would be more expensive, due to the cost of shipping water all the way back from the coast to the dams inland. However, a smaller scheme for about 100ML, located near Prospect and shipping the water directly into Prospect Reservoir would provide water much cheaper. While it would only do around 9% of the water supply, it would certainly be cheap to construct and cost about a third the amount of energy per litre.

Why aren’t we doing this as a first step rather than a pilot desalination plant. If we get into a position where we need to build a desalination plant for water then I’m all for it, but avoiding the cheaper option just because of some “ick factor” is nuts.


5 Responses to Drinking recycled sewage

  1. Sacha says:

    Apparently people around Richmond are drinking recycled water… as do people in many cities. It’s extremely poor policy is the state govt is relying on the “ooo yucky” factor to not recycle! Surely they couldn’t be so small minded. A survey is often brandished saying that sydneyites don’t want to drink recycled waste – as if this should determine whether we do!

    It just leads one to design a campaign to accept recycled water – “in London, water is recycled n times (is it 13?), in Singapore, m times. We can recycle water here in Sydney.” You would hope that they may be more substantial reasons why the NSW govt is still uncertain about recycling.

  2. Steve says:

    Polls are often a poor way of getting at what people really think on such issues, as they don’t contain the various other pressures that you face. If they were to say would you prefer to pay double for water, or drink a 9% mix of recycled water then you may get a different answer. Or maybe not. Or maybe the people who really care are drinking mostly bottle water already, and only using tap water for other purposes.

    On a question like this though polls are always a problem. Sure everyone would prefer not to dirnk recycled water, but given the full range issues, its a pretty small price to pay.

  3. Sacha says:

    Polls are often very poor as a measure of real behaviour, eg, think about the percentage of voters who say they might support a minor political party when it starts up compared to the percent of voters that actually votes for that party. Usually there’s a big difference.

  4. Steve says:

    Yes, the reason economists say they prefer to examine reveal preference by looking at what people do, rather than what they say they’ll do when asked.

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