Drinking water: taste versus quality

Former Gloucester Shire Councillor Aled Hoggett inspecting the new chlorine dosing system at the Gloucester Water Treatment Plant in 2015.
Former Gloucester Shire Councillor Aled Hoggett inspecting the new chlorine dosing system at the Gloucester Water Treatment Plant in 2015.

The quality of town drinking water is an important part of managing water services for a community and its something MidCoast Water Services takes very seriously.

“Our focus has been on ensuring the water is safe to drink,” MidCoast Council director water services Brendan Guiney said.

In the Drinking Water Quality Management System Annual Report summary for 2016 – 2017, MidCoast Council’s water achieved 100 per cent of microbiological results across all water schemes, meaning the community’s water drinking water is 100 per cent safe to drink.

In October 2017, Fairfax Media asked its MidCoast Council readers via Facebook for questions to ask Mr Guiney in regard to water services and water quality was on the list. The community wanted to know why the water smelled and tasted so bad.

Mr Guiney explained how the treated drinking water meets the stringent requirements of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, overseen by NSW Health, which is outlined in the annual report.

The taste and odour issue, however, falls under aesthetic problems, not a safety issue and requires a different solution.

“There are not health risks from aesthetic problems, which results from organic compounds found in untreated water,” Mr Guiney said, 

The water in the region mainly comes from rivers which naturally contain organic elements from decomposing plant matter.

Different factors can affect the taste and odour of water depending on the amount of rain the area receives and the water level in the river.

In November 2010, MidCoast Water opened the Bootawa Water Treatment Plant which delivers water to 90 per cent its customers.

The plant is equipped with an ozone tank and a biologically activated carbon (BAC) filtration system that helps tackle the issue of taste and odour.

Council is focusing ensuring all its water schemes are 100 per cent healthy by updating older systems, but fixing the issue of taste and odour is more difficult and expensive, according to Mr Guiney. 

Gloucester’s Water Treatment Plant’s current upgrade is focusing on managing risk and failures off the back of the 2015 incident due to machine failure.

At this stage, the upgrades won’t included a new filtration system.

However, the future security of water for the region is on council’s radar and part of the proposed solution addresses this issue for Gloucester.