Sunday, July 30, 2006
WARNING: this post has been recycled...
The weekend vote by the residents of Toowoomba, rejecting a plan to add treated sewage to the town's water supply, has forced me to recycle this post for the betterment of all mankind.
Apparently, Sydneysiders are not prepared to drink recycled sewage, even if it is 'treated to drinking water standard and safe', the Utilities Minister, Frank Sartor said recently as he defended plans for a desalination plant. Mr Sartor based his claim on a telephone survey of 600 people by UMR Research on behalf of the NSW State Government. This was strangely at odds with the results of an online SMH poll on the subject, to which more than 10,000 people responded.
The Greens predictably accused the Government of asking loaded questions in the survey to get the results it wanted.
Judge for yourself.
"Hello, Fingers...this is Sally from UMR Research calling on behalf of the NSW State Government. Do you have a couple of minutes to answer a short survey on Sydney's drinking water?”
"Yes, sure...water is an important issue. How can I help you?”
"We were just wondering if you’d like to drink recycled sewage, including toilet water that is treated to drinking-water quality.”
"I'd rather not."
"May I ask why?”
"Well, because it's sewage."
"Would you feel better about the idea if we told you the drinking quality of our recycled sewage would be assured by the NSW Government, which as you know is also responsible for the state’s magnificent rail network?”
“You mean the same government that keeps redefining the word ‘punctual’, so that a train running 2 hours late is deemed to be on time?”
“Then no, I wouldn’t, unless you are prepared to redefine the word ‘better’ so that it means much, much worse.”
"What would you say if we told you this approach is taken throughout Europe, where recycled sewage is put back into major rivers and then used further downstream to meet the next city's drinking-water requirements?”
"I would say that if I had to live there, it would be as far upstream as was Europeanly possible."
"Would it sway your opinion if we re-branded and re-marketed our recycled sewage under the name…‘Renewable Water’?”
"No, not even if you called it 'Sparkling Effluescence' and promised to supply it using fluted, cut-crystal pipes."
"So it’s not necessarily the term 'recycled sewage' that causes you concern?”
"No, it's the contents of the 'recycled sewage' that causes me concern."
“Are you aware of the successful campaign in Singapore, which is now adding 1% recycled sewage into its reservoirs, and would you be more open to drinking our recycled sewage if it was mixed with rainwater from Warragamba Dam?"
“You mean like a sewage shandy?”
“What sort of mix is the government considering?”
“Well, given the current level of Warragamba Dam, we’d be looking to add 94% recycled sewage to the existing rainwater. Of course this would reduce slightly if we got a good downpour soon.”
"Now, how would you feel about paying a lot more in the future for our recycled sewage than you do presently for fresh, clean drinking water?”
"The same way I feel now about paying a lot more to watch recycled sewage at the movies, than I used to pay to watch fresh, clean ideas."
"And finally, please describe your feelings on the proposal from the following response list: very comfortable, mildly comfortable, mildly uncomfortable or very uncomfortable..."
"Well, if the universe is very big, then I would be very uncomfortable."
"OK. Thanks for your time."