Sewage could solve 's drought
Michael Byrnes in Goulburn
A severe drought is drying up drinking water across , threatening to shut down big population centres but also creating the conditions for a revolution in water use.
Worst hit is the farming town of Goulburn, south-west of Sydney . Its biggest dam, Pejar, currently holds less than 10% of its 1,000 megalitre (220m gallon) capacity.
The town will become the first in to run out of water in six months, if it gets no substantial rain and if emergency plans for new water supplies fail to work.
The worst drought in 100 years is forcing Australians to shut off the tap on profligate water use and turn treated waste, most of which flows into the sea, into drinking water. Some waste water is already recycled to irrigate gardens and sports fields and this is to increase.
Goulburn's residents are likely to become the first to start drinking treated sewage - a practice long shunned elsewhere. "Someone's got to do it. And then it will probably go through the rest of ," said Paul Stephenson, Goulburn's mayor. Scientists back the plans. "Closed systems taking and treating waste waters and putting them back into the system are the way of the future," said Colin Creighton, of the government-backed Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. A hi-tech A$30m (£13m) sewage treatment plant could be delivering drinking water to Goulburn's dams within five years.
Global warming is changing rainfall patterns in , the world's driest continent, particularly in the populated south-west and south-eastern corners, causing a long-term drop in annual rainfall and greater extremes of weather.
Consequently, Goulburn has become a microcosm of a water crisis spreading around the country. Sydney is debating whether to install a desalination plant, and last month Western Australia doubled its budget for water infrastructure.
Like it or not, Australians will have to adapt. On average, each Australian uses 280 litres of water a day, compared with less than 150 litres a day in the
Reuters /The Guardian