How Australia Keeps its Drinking Water Safe

Safe drinking water is essential to sustain life. -United Nations Drinking Water Guidelines

Australia, one of the world's wealthiest countries, ranks second highest in the 2013 Human Development Index globally. The United Nations has regarded Australia's national performance in terms of quality of life, health and education as one of the world's finest. By quality of life and health, this means being able to provide its 23 million people clean and safe water to use, thus the formulation of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. To maintain clean and safe drinking water, Australia has implemented the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, which was based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization. These guidelines help each state regulate and monitor the safety of the drinking water. According to the guidelines, Australia's drinking water should be free from contaminants, chemicals, and organic substances that make people sick. These guidelines accompanied by water assessment processes provide information and help identify the strategies for prevention and control of certain hazards in Australia's drinking water.

Where our water comes from and is collected?

Australia is bound by the Indian and Pacific Oceans which is why it is often dubbed an Island continent. The country's geography creates a series of catchments in areas where water from rivers and streams is received. Catchments play a vital role in the country's water systems, where its quality determines the quality of water coming from it. However, different states have different water sources thus varying catchment and water quality. To ensure there is enough water supply from these catchments dams are built around streams and rivers.
Hinze_Dam_02Aus Dam

Australian water treatment process

According to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the water treatment process undergoes several stages and a number of chemicals are added to kill waterborne contaminants.
Chemical process controls. Algae, colour, odour, helps to remove synthetic pollutants and organic matter
Water in catchments undergoes four stages before it passes through our tap. Even if different water authorities control each state, the applied treatment process is used in general.
  1. Coagulation happens when a chemical called coagulant is added to the water to cause water particles to settle out more readily. When coagulants react with water, bigger particles are formed where they are easily removed by passing the water in a filter.
  2. Sedimentation is a physical water treatment process where the solids are removed from our water supply. The solid particles are removed and carried away to be turned into sludge.
  3. Filtration, occurs when water passes through sand to remove particles. However, modern technology has changed this because countries, like Australia, now use the microfiltration system. A process which lets water pass through channels with small pores.
  4. Disinfection kills bacteria that coagulation and filtration cannot. Chlorine is the most common and widely used disinfectant in Australia. Without this chemical, waterborne contaminants increase causing illnesses like gastric discomfort.
Removal of Contaminants is an advanced disinfecting process that uses activated carbon. water filtration

Water Distribution

After the treatment and the disinfecting processes, water is distributed to different households through pipes systems beneath the streets. To maintain safe and clean drinking water in the distribution pipes, the guidelines indicate that these pipes be regularly cleaned and managed.

What Comes Out of Your Tap?

Due to Australia's strict and controlled water treatment guidelines, your tap water is 99% safe to drink on a daily basis. You do not need to worry about threats that would cause immediate waterborne diseases. However, even though your water can be consumed without direct health threat, doesn't mean its 100% good for your health nor 100% safe. Contaminants can still make their way into our water supplies, and the chemicals added such as Chlorine and Fluoride are not doing your health any favours. Both are highly debated topics in Australia but it comes down to how you choose to consume your drinking water- Via tap water/bottled water or through additional filtration methods. arsenic2
Type-water and health