Waste water set to ‘drought proof’ Perth. Treated waste water from toilets, showers and washing machines will be pumped back into Western Australia’s water system following a three-year trial.

The state took another step towards becoming the first in Australia to rely on recycled waste water for drinking, after the trial at a $50 million treatment plant was successfully completed. Officials are satisfied the treated water is safe for human consumption – with every one of the 62,300 water samples passing strict health and safety guidelines. They have now revealed progression to the next stage, where seven billion litres of treated water will be returned to the system via ground aquifers.

The recycled water will start flowing in 2016. The Water Minister countered the “yuck factor” by confirming it will be about 30 years before the water is actually being consumed. “The water is actually pure before we put it back in the aquifers for naturalisation – it will be there for potentially up to 30 years before it will flow out of taps again. By the time the water is extracted, it will be the same as any other groundwater.”

Since 1992, concerns over Perth’s future water supply have become increasingly urgent, with increased water consumption coupled with a drastic reduction in the flows into dams. Desalination plants have bridged some gaps, but by 2060 it is feared Perth’s water usage will overtake supply by a massive 365 gigalitres. So the state government, the CSIRO and water bosses embarked on the ambitious trial, which treated 2533 megalitres of water through micro filtration, reverse osmosis and ultra-violet disinfection to produce high quality recycled water. As much as 28 billion litres a year could be recycled from the Craigie facility if the scheme is given the full green light.

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