If you ever wonder why people get cynical about politicians and the media, look no further than the current debacle regarding the Queensland government’s approach on recycling purified water back into the drinking supply.

After The Australian newspaper ran a determined, prolonged fear campaign for a full month recycling all the usual rubbish about ‘toilet to tap’, the Queensland government backed down on its long-held insistence on proceeding with full recycling.  Instantly, the same newspaper starts writing about “spectacular backflips”, even while saying it might not be good policy, but it’s “smart politics”, even while still running quotes pushing the totally false fearmongering line that the plan involved “putting sewage in drinking water”.

I can’t see how it’s smart politics in the long run to give in to fear campaigns rather than stand up to them, but the government can make it’s own political judgements. There’s no doubt it’s terribly policy though, and will just make it that much harder for full recycling of water to be taken up more widely, which is what is needed to improve water efficiency.

The fact that the terrible Traveston Dam is being ‘delayed’ at the same time – a welcome, science-based move that could and should signal an end to the whole expensive, destructive project – means there is even less reason to hold back on full recycling.  However, there will now be uncertainty over both projects – leaving long-term water policy in a state of limbo, as well as the long-suffering residents in the vicinity of the Traveston site.

ELSEWHERE: More on this topic at Larvatus Prodeo

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