Australian Town Rejects Potable Recycled Sewage Water
SYDNEY A drought-hit Australian town could not swallow the idea of drinking recycled sewage water and rejected the water-saving option in a referendum on Saturday.
Toowoomba, 140 km (85 miles) west of the Queensland state capital Brisbane, would have become the nation's first town to supplement drinking water with recycled waste water, a practice used in Israel, Singapore, the U.S. and parts of Europe.
In the end, the "yuck factor" meant Toowoomba's 100,000 residents overwhelmingly voted against the idea despite a decade of tough water regulations resulting from the worst drought in 100 years in parts of Australia.
"The majority of the Toowoomba community does not support the indirect potable reuse of recycled water," said Australia's parliamentary secretary for water, Malcolm Turnbull.
"I respect that decision. Reuse of recycled water for drinking purposes in the manner proposed is sustainable and it is safe. But, as I have said many times, it is not compulsory."
If residents had voted "yes", 25 percent of their drinking water would have come from recycled water in a A$68 million ($52 million) scheme. The water is filtered through a complex membrane in a process known as reverse osmosis.
Turnbull said recycling water was important for Australia as demand was expected to exceed supply from existing water sources in nearly all major Australian cities within the next 20 years.