Water needs a new brand to make it easier to swallow

9 Apr 2015
Professor Sarah Dolnicar

Trendy California is going for it, but recycled water still won’t wash in Queensland – and a University of Queensland researcher is warning that we need to stop being squeamish about drinking treated water. 

Research by UQ Business School Professor Sara Dolnicar shows that Queenslanders are happy to spend millions of dollars on bottled water, but the idea of drinking recycled water is still too hard to swallow.

“Recycled water has an image problem that we need to change if Queensland is to thrive,” Professor Dolnicar said.

“Campaigners exploiting the ‘yuck’ factor put a stop to recycled water in Toowoomba many years ago, but they offered no alternative to support water security.”

Professor Dolnicar’s research investigates why Australians views some water sources, such as bottled water or rainwater, favourably but don’t like others, such as recycled water.

“Most of the state is in the grip of drought, and now is the time for a new and honest debate about alternative water sources,” she said.

“Using recycled water won’t break the drought but it will make our scarce resources go further.

“For example, Mackay is converting 90 per cent of the city’s waste into irrigation-quality water for cane farmers and California has just invested $1 billion into water recycling plants.”

The United Nations has warned that only 60 per cent of the world’s water needs will be met by 2030.