Saturday, May 27, 2006

Drinking their own urine

As some of you may know, Australia has a water problem. A shift in long-term climate patterns has meant that they don't get enough rain, resulting in widespread drought and water shortages. Various Australian cities (including Perth and Sydney) are looking at the prospect of running out of water and having to install desalination plants within only a couple of years. Meanwhile, in other parts of Australia, things are even more desperate: the town of Goulburn, NSW, is looking at recycling its own effluent for drinking water - that's right, they're down to drinking their own urine over there.


But is Australia running out of water?,,1346105,00.html

Some quotes:
"...In 2000, the country used 25m gigalitres of water... ...Just 2m gigalitres of that total went to households, and nearly half of that, in turn, was used to water gardens. The vast bulk of it - 17m gigalitres, ...was used in farming..."

"...It takes 1,200 litres to make a dollar's-worth of sugar and 1,500 litres to make dairy products or cotton to the same value. The most thirsty crop is rice, which consumes 7,500 litres of water for every dollar of value.

You might not have thought a place as dry as Australia would be in the rice business. But dotted along the Murray River valley, the continent's only major river, there are dozens of farms that collectively use almost as much water growing rice as Australia's 20 million people use for all household purposes..."

Interesting reading.

Posted by Sanctuary : 5/27/2006 02:24:00 PM

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. Posted by Sanctuary : 5/27/2006 02:25:00 PM

Also, more water falls on Australia than 20mln people could possibly use - trouble is, it's mostly in the wrong places and for only half a year.

Posted by Rich : 5/27/2006 02:36:00 PM

Recycling water is a good thing (in itself), good thing for australia, good thing for Singapore, a good thing for NASA and a good thing for any environmentally minded place, running out of water or not.

Posted by Genius : 5/27/2006 05:22:00 PM

Well, if you've both been drinking enough beer you can skull your mate's urine without a care (er, eyewitness rather than personal account, I assure you...)

Posted by Psycho Milt : 5/27/2006 07:33:00 PM

Shame, I/S, you're repeating the rhetoric of crappy news outlets. The "recycled sewage/effluent" line drives me nuts. It's been used in all the opinion polls and surveys, and of course people say "no" when they're asked if they'd like to drink sewage.

Recycling water is a far better idea than desalination: cheaper, easier and more environmentally friendly, all with basically the same technology.

Posted by Chris : 5/29/2006 10:49:00 AM

Auckland has been mixing Hamilton sewage from the Waikato in its water supply for ages now, nothing new there. The popular image in London in the 80s was that Thames Water water supply had been through 7 other people before it reached your lips.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 5/30/2006 10:28:00 AM

Any water filtered through an entire town's kidneys multiple times must be pure!

Australia wouldn't have any problems with water if they actually used sensible plumbing. When I moved over to Canberra (not far down the road from Goulburn), I was expecting to see quite stringent water restrictions - no sprinklers, urban irrigation restriction, heavy push for replacement of older shower heads, taps and household appliances with low water use modern subsidised greywater recycling systems for households, etc. However, there are basically no water restrictions in place here that effect me except for some restrictions on sprinkler types and usage, and restrictions on when you can water your garden. I use more water here than I did in ChCh/Canterbury, because the appliances and plumbing is wide bore, full pressure stuff, way-hay! In fact, when I first got here in '03, the local city council still had a _ban_ on householders having a rainwater tank to collect from their guttering (They look ugly you know, and are against the 'town plan').

So, I reckon they deserve every water woe they get :-)

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 5/30/2006 01:07:00 PM

And the best bit is that they want to build nuclear reactors all over the place. And what do nuclear reactors really badly need to not blow up? Lots of water.

Yip, I reckon they're going to find that mythical sea in the middle of the continent any day now...

Posted by Anonymous : 5/30/2006 08:14:00 PM

Well, If you're going to use nuclear power anywhere, Australia is a damned good place to do so. Big, flat, dry, tectonically stable and full of uranium anyway. You don't need much water for coolant in a reactor, and if they do the cunning thing and use the chinese pebble-bed reactor design, they basically can't have a meltdown even with dozens of homer simpsons in the control room. It's also an excellent place to dump the waste, for the same reasons - big, flat, dry, tectonically stable, and fuck all population in the middle bits. They could be raking it in taking everyone else's waste at a premium price.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 5/31/2006 01:42:00 PM

Yea, the Sydney 'burbs are full of homes that re-fill their swimming pools every day to save on cleaning, so it's a crisis of nothing other than planning. A million odd water meters with a trivial charge would sort them out real quick.

And yes, all the water in the world has filtered through something's kidneys at some point or another. People are rightly cautious when it comes to sewage, it's just a shame the news folk prefer to incite fear than do serious presentations on such issues.

Posted by tussock : 5/31/2006 05:41:00 PM

Well, if they're drinking their own urine, it's got to be an improvement on their beer.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/02/2006 12:55:00 PM