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Water Recycling for Drinking

Direct potable reuse is municipal wastewater that has been purified to a quality suitable for direct reuse as a drinking water supply without an ‘environmental buffer’, such as a lake or aquifer. This project has produced an independent, peer-reviewed, internationally recognised report that defines the potential place of direct potable reuse with water supply options. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) developed the report and ensured its support by the scientific and engineering community in Australia. To maintain independence, the project had a steering committee consisting of ATSE Fellows and non-Fellows. The final report was assessed by independent, external peer reviewers.


Extensive consultation with key organisations informed development of the report. It considered the findings of other reports, including overseas reports that could be applied to the Australian context. The report finds that it is inevitable that Australians will be drinking recycled water in coming decades and recommends direct potable reuse of water—recycling water directly to the drinking water distribution system—should be considered as a viable water management strategy along with other water supply options. Benefits include reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, lower capital and operational costs and a more robust, climate-independent water supply.

Using a hypothetical coastal city, the social, economic and environmental impacts (beneficial or otherwise) of different water supply options—seawater desalination, dual pipe systems, drinking water production—are compared and presented in an appendix. The example takes a ‘green growth’ perspective that takes into account carbon management issues and costs. The final report and fact sheet: Drinking water through recycling—Benefits and costs of supplying direct to the distribution system was launched for ATSE and the Centre by Ms Karlene Maywald, Chair of the National Water Commission, in October 2013 and received considerable media publicity.

Download the full report

Download the summary brochure

Download Appendix A: Survey Responses

Download Appendix B: Hypothetical comparison of four water supply options


Indicative project capital costs for the four options compared for a hypothetical urban, coastal Australian city



Release of this report provided the foundation for holding a number of state-based briefings to government agencies, utilities and industry to inform institutional debate and policy consideration, with the goal of affecting policy decision made at the state and federal levels around recycled water guidelines.

This project was part of the Centre’s National Demonstration Education and Engagement Program (NDEEP) established to gain acceptance for drinking recycled water.



Project manager: Dr Andrew Hastings, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE)
Project leader: Dr Stuart Khan, The University of New South Wales

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