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- Sydney Water achieved 100% compliance with drinking water guidelines in 2009–10.
- Customers rate their water quality at eight out of ten.
- Water main breaks are down 45% from the 2002–03 level.
In 2009–10, Sydney Water supplied over 501 billion litres of drinking water to 4.5 million people in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains. Over the past five years, Sydney Water has:
- installed 638 backflow prevention devices to prevent potential contamination from cross connections in the network
- upgraded two water filtration plants to manage algae
- upgraded online analysers, reservoir mixers and rechlorination plants throughout the water supply network to improve disinfection processes
- developed new water quality testing, monitoring and reporting systems.
Drinking water guidelines review
Under its Operating Licence, Sydney Water must comply with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. During 2009–10, Sydney Water achieved 100% compliance with the guidelines.
As new scientific and technical developments emerge that enable better monitoring of drinking water, these guidelines are reviewed. In recent years, the National Health and Medical Research Council conducted a major review of these drinking water standards. During the public consultation review, water authorities around Australia had input into the new proposed guidelines. These are due to be finalised in August 2010, at a meeting of Health Ministers from around the country.
The proposed changes are not expected to have a significant financial or operational impact on Sydney Water. Some new tests will be needed, including those to detect:
- N-Nitrosodimethylamine, a disinfectant by-product. Sydney Water has a very low risk of producing this compound
- cylindrospermopsin, an algal toxin that may increase in the water supply because of climate change.
Sydney Water will also develop tests for compounds the research council has identified as emerging contaminants for possible inclusion in future guidelines.
The new guidelines also require prompt reporting of any E. coli found. Sydney Water’s tests have shown that the water supply has been 99.98% free of E. coli in 2009–10.
Water quality review
Sydney Water, the Sydney Catchment Authority and NSW Health requested the NSW Government set up a panel to review the progress of recommendations from the 1998 Sydney Water Inquiry (McClellan Inquiry).
The panel reported on its findings in early 2010 and were impressed with the progress against the recommendations made in 1998 Inquiry. There have been significant improvements in water quality management because of changes to the regulatory framework, advances in science, infrastructure upgrades, and a greater focus on catchment management.
The panel expressed concern at low connection rates in some Priority Sewerage Program schemes and recommended that timeframes be set to encourage connection.
Sydney Water will continue to work with other agencies to ensure the quality of Sydney’s water supply.
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