Public help needed to avert water crisis

WATER RESCUE: Power and Water's senior headworks planning engineer Trevor Durling, area manager Chris Horton and senior water and waste water engineer Skefos Tsoukalis.
WATER RESCUE: Power and Water's senior headworks planning engineer Trevor Durling, area manager Chris Horton and senior water and waste water engineer Skefos Tsoukalis.

Katherine survived a water crisis last build-up season and with public help can do it again.

This is the firm belief of water officials who are not enjoying the same level of cooperation from residents this year.

“There is a definite push back from people who are angry about the contamination,” Power and Water’s Katherine area manager Chris Horton.

Residents are not following the odds and even water restrictions regime as closely as they did last year.

Water officials can clearly see this in the water use, which has this week entered what they call the “red zone”.

The red zone is the safety margin between what can be safely treated to remove PFAS contamination and what can be supplied.

Until a new water treatment plant arrives, and that is late next year at the earliest on the latest best guess, water restrictions are the best weapon our water suppliers have.

Mr Horton agrees people are angry the town’s water is contaminated with PFAS and were also angry it was taking a long time to fix it.

“People are lot more lax about the restrictions this year,” he said.

Graphic: Power and Water.

Graphic: Power and Water.

Only the total ban on watering on Fridays has “saved” the town so far and allows the water treatment plant to catch up.

Whether those restrictions will have to go further is something officials like Mr Horton are reluctant to discuss.

Instead they are now going after the town’s biggest water users, who are mostly government or semi-government authorities anyway.

The town’s public pool was famously contaminated by bore water and now receives treated supplies to reduce the PFAS to below accepted recreation levels.

Closing the pool wouldn’t save much water, Mr Horton said. It only receives top ups.

Mr Horton said a public plea to the residents of Katherine to help themselves during the water crisis was the next best approach.

“We do use a lot of water in this community,” he said.

“There are other levers to pull but we don’t want to have to do that.”

He said Power and Water was 100 per cent committed to providing safe drinking water to the town.

“We could alter the mix a little and allow some untreated bore water in and still be below the recommended level but we are absolutely committed to not doing that.

“People have told us they don’t want us doing that.”

Mr Horton said every resident can have an impact on water use.

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