Victoria educates on recycled water

More critical in smaller cities: Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong are in a much more critical situation. It is easy to drown in statistics, but one stands out: the yearly flow from all the state’s rivers from 1947 to the present has been about 63,000 megalitres, but from the drought, which began in 1997, that flow has trickled to little more than 11,000 megalitres.

Rural areas: In rural areas, people’s lives and their livelihoods are affected much more directly by lack of rain than city dwellers. They are in the front line. This position, in turn, affects perceptions about the relationship between the city and the bush.

State poll: In the lead-up to the November (State) poll, both parties will be acutely aware of this. The Age on 13 September reported resentment from the communities in Gippsland to the plan along the lines that the area was being used as a "milking cow" and "receptacle for Melbourne’s waste".

"Poowoomba" factor: The "Poowomba" factor should not be discounted. Recently Toowomba residents voted against using recycled water despite being in the grip of drought. The vote highlights a major problem: the lack of education among people about the benefits of recycled water. This is the responsibility of government, and if it "can’t guarantee the rain", as Water Minister John Thwaites quite rightly said, it can guarantee that it is doing all it can to educate the public.

Latrobe scheme "sensible": Household use, however, plays only a small part in the state’s water consumption. The Government’s plan for the Latrobe Valley power stations, handled correctly, is a move forward. It shows the kind of thinking that is necessary to tackle a diminishing resource: it is much more sensible than the proposed $220 million plan to pump water from Shepparton to Ballarat, which only moves water from one spot to another.

The Age, 14/9/2006, p.14

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