Australia: Flash Flooding Threatens Quality Of Drinking Water Supply For Millions

Residents warned to boil tap water as heavy rainfall continues, contaminating flood water with raw sewage

22 Mar 2022 by The Water Diplomat
BRISBANE, Australia

Experts have warned of the threat to the drinking water supply of millions of locals in the face of extreme flooding along the east coast of Australia.

Record levels of rain have devastated parts of Queensland and New South Wales – leaving vehicles and homes submerged, and sewage systems destroyed. An estimated 80 Percent of annual rainfall, came down in fewer than three days at the end of February.

The torrential rainfall has forced the closure of two drinking water treatment plants in the south-eastern region of the state of Queensland with health authorities urging residents to avoid drinking tap water that hasn’t been boiled and to conserve water.

Ian Wright from Western Sydney University has warned how the flooding could overwhelm treatment plants by clogging the system’s filters and diluting the chemicals used to clean water supplies.

Describing the threat of water contamination, Director of the Australian Graduate School of Engineering at UNSW Professor, Stuart Khan told Sky News: “Floodwaters contain lots of organic carbon and sediment, which is picked up from erosion of riverbanks and other overland flow,".

"In urban areas, floods fill sewers and cause them to overflow, so flood waters also quickly become contaminated with raw sewage.” He added.

Other health experts have also warned of a likely increase in related illnesses due to contaminated flood waters.

Shantha Raghwan, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) Queensland deputy chair, warned in a statement that locals in the affected areas could expect an increase in gastroenteritis and skin infections due to the unclean conditions.

Healthcare systems have also been impacted by staffing shortages, according to Raghwan, with many key workers unable to travel to hospitals across NSW and Queensland.

Tradesmen are waring of delays to necessary repairs and rebuilding as global supply chain issues are affecting building supplies in Australia.