Bringing drinking water in remote parts of Australia into compliance with national safety guidelines could cost at least $2.2 billion.
A new report from the Water Services Association of Australia has found that more than 500 Indigenous communities lack regular water testing.
Some were receiving drinking water with levels of uranium, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate above Australian guideline levels.
“We estimate that it will take at least $2.2 billion to bring drinking water up to Australian drinking water guidelines – more if you include the replacement of old pipes and plumbing” , said Adam Lovell, executive director of the association.
The report calls on all states and territories to formalize Australia’s drinking water guidelines to ensure that at least a minimum quality standard is met whether a person lives in Sydney, Shepparton or Yuendumu.
“Significant and continued investment is needed in both water quality monitoring and an innovation fund to develop new technologies that are resilient to the impacts of climate change and ideally integrated with renewable energy and digital communications” , says the report.
It also identified blurred lines of accountability and a complex web of agencies involved in the system.
As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Australia is committed to ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
A number of recent studies, including by the Australian National University and the Productivity Commission, have revealed significant drinking water quality issues in small, remote communities.
“There is a widespread collective opinion among communities, researchers and industry that drinking water in remote communities does not meet the requirements of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and a belief in many communities that the water they drink can affect their health,” the report said.
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