'Buried dams' help clean recycled water

In experiments undertaken in aquifers and under controlled conditions in the laboratory simulating conditions of an underground aquifer, results have shown that the disease-causing microbes can last less than one month, he has found.

This makes underground storage one of the most promising ways to cleanse and recycle water.

Australia is naturally a dry continent, and in many areas our groundwater resources are being heavily exploited. This appears to offer a safe, clean way to recharge them.

We also need to think about our environment, and the importance to natural streams and wetlands of maintaining adequate subsurface water supplies.

Dr Toze has tested the antiviral activity of indigenous microbes in groundwater taken from South Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

In every case the large numbers of virus added to the water disappeared in less than six weeks.

Since water injected into an aquifer is likely to remain underground for several months before being re-used for irrigation, it looks as if there will be a comfortable safety margin.

Dr Toze says that, for many of Australias more arid towns and cities, reclaiming water will soon be an essential practice.

At present people still describe this as waste water but that is a bad term, and it shows how limited our thinking still is towards water. Instead, Australians need to focus on the productive uses of reclaimed water.

This sort of water is not intended for drinking, but for the irrigation of parks, gardens, farms, ovals and street verges.

I believe that in pioneering this sort of water re-use, Australia is showing the world a lead in a field that will be increasingly vital to the human and environmental future, Dr Toze says.


Contact: Simon Toze
CSIRO Australia

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