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Risks to drinking water after heavy rainfall

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Risks to drinking water after heavy rainfall

Thursday 27 August 2015

Bega Valley Shire Council is warning residents that, after flooding and heavy rainfall, surface water from farm dams, rivers and creeks should never be used for drinking or cooking without appropriate treatment.

Council’s Environmental Health Coordinator, Greg O’Donnell,  said this water may be acceptable for non-potable uses such as washing clothes, irrigation, gardening or toilet-flushing, but Council recommends that water used for bathing is at least disinfected before use.

“It is very important to ensure that the water your family drinks is safe,” he said.

“Council warns that heavy rainfall and flooding increases the risk of contaminated water which could contain disease causing micro-organisms, chemicals or algal blooms entering surface waters such as rivers and creeks.”

To avoid water quality problems Mr O’Donnell recommends that you:

  • Disinfect your water to kill disease-causing micro-organisms and to protect the water should recontamination occur. Chlorine is the most common and cost effective disinfectant used for drinking water. Drinking water can also be disinfected by bringing it to a rolling boil and then allowing it to cool.
  • Filter your water. There are a number of different filtration methods available and the choice of filter depends on the contaminants that need to be removed. Special filters may be necessary to deal with blue-green algae and specific chemicals.
  • Make sure that surface water sources are fenced against livestock, and protected from septic tank overflows and spills of domestic, agricultural or industrial chemicals.
  • Check up-stream for contamination sources. Council or the local Catchment Management Authority may be able to provide information about nearby activities which may affect your local water quality.
  • If information on water quality is not readily available, households may wish to have the water tested for key health characteristics. Regular testing would be necessary to identify all contaminants, especially due to varying weather conditions. There are local businesses that can support people that wish to have their water sampled.

“It is worth remembering that a properly maintained rainwater tank can provide good quality drinking water,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“Providing the rainwater is clear, has little taste or smell and the roof, gutters and tanks are well maintained, it is probably safe and unlikely to cause any illness for most users,” he said.

For more information on water quality and treatment go to then and search for ‘NSW Health Private Water Supply Guidelines’ and ‘Rainwater Tanks’, or call Council’s Environmental Health team on 6499 2222.


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