Last week we attended an information day hosted by Healthy Land and Water and the Sunshine Coast Environment Council. Titled ‘Water Wisdom: The Urban Water Cycle’, an interesting line up of speakers stepped us through the water cycle as it relates to Sunshine Coast communities.
Interesting facts we learned on the day:
- New urban developments have a high ecological footprint with 1km² requiring 6 to 7km² of catchment to supply potable water under average rainfall conditions. That means over the next 15 to 20 years the Sunshine Coast region would need 1,300km² of “new” water supply catchment if we continued business as usual.
- Streambank erosion is the biggest source of turbidity in our water catchments. Protecting existing trees is by far the best (and cheapest) way to prevent our treatment plants from clogging up after rain events.
- We are already indirectly drinking recycled water – once the concept of six-star recycled water was explained, most attendees felt that it would be a safe option for future drinking water supplies.
- The cattle and dairy industries are the biggest culprits for pathogens entering our water sources. Investment is needed to help farmers with fencing creeks and providing clean drinking troughs for livestock. Farmers win by improving livestock health – communities win by lowering water treatment costs.
- Our ‘societal memory’ of the millennium drought helped keep our water use low for a long time after the drought was broken. Lately it has been creeping up again and the Sunshine Coast now has the highest water use per person per day in the whole SEQ region.
- The most significant impact on public health over the past 150 years has been the implementation of the collection and treatment of wastewater before it is returned to the environment.
- We particularly enjoyed Jenifer Simpson’s presentation on water quality and a star rating that explains the technical jargon of water treatment in easy to understand terms. Check out her book for more information.