Direct recycling is a drinking water option

Dec 13, 2013

Australia should embrace the concept of recycled drinking water, recognising its benefits include reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, lower capital and operational costs and a more robust, climate-independent water supply.

Direct potable reuse of water (DPR) – recycling water directly to the drinking water distribution system – should be considered as a viable water resources management strategy beside other water supply options, according to a report from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).

Its issues magazine, ATSE Focus, argues that it is time for a new paradigm to preserve a valuable resource. In its latest edition, headlined Water Recycling, contributors discuss why Australia must seriously consider direct recycling as a drinking water option.
Dr Stuart Khan, the University of NSW water specialist who wrote the ATSE report, says the science, technology and engineering associated with DPR have been rapidly advancing in recent decades.

"DPR is growing internationally and will be an expanding part of global drinking water supply in the decades ahead," he writes. "DPR is technically feasible and can safely supply potable water directly into the water distribution system, but advanced water treatment plants are complex and need to be designed correctly and operated effectively with appropriate oversight. Current Australian regulatory arrangements can already accommodate soundly designed and operated DPR systems."

Professor Jurg Keller FTSE, Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre at The University of Queensland, says Australia has developed an excellent understanding of the important water quality criteria and how to maintain them, which has translated into well-performing treatment operations at both wastewater discharge and water intake.

"The performance of our modern wastewater treatment processes has been pushed up continuously over the past decades mainly to ensure environmental protection of downstream waterways, estuaries and bays. Given the considerable investments into these processes, the question can be raised how we could make better use of the treated water than simply discharging it into the environment."

Mr Ian Law, from the Research Advisory Committees for the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence and the Urban Water Security Research Alliance, writes that water recycling is playing a significant role in the diversification of water supplies in many countries of the world – including Australia – and that potable reuse has recently been legislated in California.

"We have seen tremendous growth in its application over the last few years. Water professionals and researchers in Australia and elsewhere have shown that potable reuse, and indeed direct potable reuse, is a safe and sustainable water supply option that must be considered in the development of future water supply portfolios. This divide between water supply reality and ‘political will’ must be removed if cost effective and sustainable water supplies into the future are to be realised."


Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE)

Bill Mackey

Level 1 / 1 Bowen Crescent

3004 Melbourne Vic




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