Australia Water History

By Laurence Jones
December 12, 2007


Laurence Jones Febuary 2009 update has been added to this history of water management in Queensland, Australia. Councils, regionalism, public/private partnerships and environmentalism have combined to destroy safe drinking water.

Here’s the timeline of serious issues with Australia ’s public drinking water. The timeline is given in two parts with time of actions, relevant discussion and citations.

Part I

1990 – Transnational companies involved in water and wastewater infrastructure businesses enter Australia . They came in search of a share in a public-private partnership. Their target was the $80 billion “privatization” of the water and wastewater infrastructure.

1991 – The Australian Federal Government commences talks regarding a National Competition Policy (NCP). Soon after, the NCP is initiated under Fred Himler as the architect. The purpose of the NCP was to facilitate forced privatization of Australia ‘s infrastructure; water, electricity and so on. The National Competition Council is also put into place.

1992 – The United Nations Rio de Janeiro  Earth Summit takes place. Outcomes include Agenda 21, Chapter 8 which uses ‘sustainability’ as the key word.

Environment Australia ‘s Intergovernmental Unit and the Australian New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) drove a strategy to force:

  • Privatization of infrastructure
  • Direct Potable Reuse water introduced

Local governments soon lost their right to make infrastructure decisions. Integrated Local Area Plans (ILAP’s) were created along with numerous other changes designed so that local residents no longer had any real input in future plans for their areas. The United Nations was now in full control of Australia ’s future development.

1993 – Environmental groups began to publicly condemn dams and ocean outfalls. At the same time, they privately promoted Planned Indirect and Direct Potable Reuse. Planned Indirect was promoted because it is easier to sell. Direct Potable Reuse is just about impossible to sell to the public. To this day, the public is unaware that the goal is Direct Potable Reuse, not Planned Indirect.

1993 – The Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux and Lend Lease Consortium is awarded a 25-year contract to Build, Own and Operate {BOO} Sydney ‘s Prospect Water Treatment Plant. This plant supplies 85% of Sydney ‘s water. At the time of award, numerous questions were asked regarding the tendering process. No questions were answered.

1993 – The Consortium for Integrated Resource Management (CIRM) was created as a direct result of the 1992 United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit . CIRM is a partnership that includes the following:

  • Queensland Department of Primary Industry,
  • Queensland Environment Protection Agency,
  • Queensland Department of Natural Resources,
  • University of Queensland ,
  • Griffith University and affiliates,
  • The Federal Government owned Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

CIRM has been researching Direct Potable Reuse since 1995. Members of CIRM have been involved in all strategies, studies and other actions that tried to force the introduction of Direct Potable Reuse.

1993 – 1994 – An environmentalist, who held a very high position with the Sydney Water Board, helped four key environmental groups in New South Wales join the Board. They were instrumental in inserting conditions in the “Special Sydney Water Corporation Act” and ‘License’ to force Sydney Water to introduce treated sewage effluent into their water supply dam by 2011. By 1995 Sydney Water was conducting research into Direct Potable Reuse.

1994 (Late) – The small, 3600 member, Queensland Branch of Australian Water and Wastewater Association (AWWA), with the involvement of powerful companies, co-opted a leading environmentalist onto their Board. Since 1993, she has condemned dam and ocean outfalls while promoting potable reuse.

1995 – A $550,000 Caloundra/Maroochy Strategic Wastewater Management Study is initiated. It includes a $220,000 community consultation component. The outcome was based on this community consultation component which included 60 focus group meetings. The outcome was predetermined.

Project Managers were given a list of 1600 people to contact and invite. Of these, 1200 successful contacts were made. About 380 attended. The list of invitees reads like a “Who’s Who” of the environmental movement.

Three books: Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 outline the study. Phase 2 involved school-based environmental groups. The phase 2 group chose the preferred outcomes. They did not attend Phase 1 which outlined available options. Education Queensland asked to be informed when the school-based children were needed.

All outcomes were identical to the Queensland Branch AWWA 1995 Seven Policies. The preferred options were:

  • Planned Indirect Potable Reuse,
  • Direct Potable Reuse,
  • Disposal to Water.

Outcomes also included an Education Program on water and the construction of AWWA’s 1995 Direct Potable Reuse Demonstration Plant. AWWA has moved from being a technically based group to being more politically environmental.

1996 – The Caloundra/Maroochy Strategic Wastewater Management Study (C/MSWM) was conducted despite both Caloundra and Maroochy Councils prior acknowledgement that the environment groups were over-represented.

In 1997 – Both councils adopted the study for planning purposes for 50 years. An official study released in January 1999, prepared on behalf of the QWRS by Nexus Australia, states that “The credibility of the support for potable reuse obtained from the study is therefore open to doubt” because environmental groups were believed to have had a disproportionate impact on the outcomes.

The preferred options and preferred plans included building several Direct Potable Reuse plants in both city and shire. These preferred options and preferred plans were never made public. This information was obtained from the State Ombudsman.

1996 – The South Caboolture Water Reuse Strategy is created. USA-based Metcalf and Eddy joins with Kinhill and carried out the Strategy. The public was told that the outcome was to introduce planned Indirect Potable Reuse. The Executive Report stated that Direct Potable Reuse would be introduced soon after.

Part II

August 1997 – The Queensland State Government initiated the Caloundra/Maroochy Strategic Wastewater Management Strategy to implement the outcomes of the study. The outcomes were to introduce Direct Potable Reuse.

All twelve steering committee members from the study, including the local environmental group and two representatives from the Queensland State Government were on the new steering committee with the addition of Queensland Health. Under “Terms of Reference”, with the heading ‘Indirect Potable Re-use’ and under “Support” it states, “Support is an interim measure before introducing Direct Potable Reuse”. Queensland Health is solely responsible for any decision to introduce potable reuse in Queensland .

Also in 1997 – The Queensland State Government initiated the Queensland Water Reuse Strategy {QWRS} to facilitate the forced introduction of potable reuse and outcomes of the C/MSWM Study. A short time later they changed the name to the ‘Queensland Water Recycling Strategy’ {QWRS}. The public was not aware that the government was planning to force the introduction of Direct Potable Reuse.

The QWRS membership was stacked with proponents of the forced introduction of Direct Potable Reuse. The representation included:

  • Numerous Queensland State Government departments,
  • Companies involved in water and wastewater infrastructure who were members of AWWA, Queensland Branch and key sponsors for the AWWA 1995 Direct Potable Reuse Project.
  • Universities involved in promoting Direct Potable Reuse and members of the CIRM,
  • Members of environmental groups already involved in the promotion of this concept.

The Chairs of the four Technical Advisory Groups {TAGS}, Steering Committee and Independent Reference Panel were members of AWWA, Queensland Branch.

In late 1997 – The Queensland State Government’s Water Education Project was initiated. It was designed to be used in schools.

1998 – The Water Education Project is renamed to; AWWA, “We All Use Water” Education Program. I have the kit and it is biased:

  • Against dams and ocean outfalls,
  • In favor of Planned Indirect and Direct Potable Reuse.

The Queensland State Government was represented on the Steering Committee. With reference to water, another Queensland State Government initiative now promotes potable reuse in Queensland schools.

1998 – Sydney suffers from the Sydney Water Crisis. The Prospect Plant is involved. When Sydney Water tried to bypass the plant they realized that they no longer controlled a main section of their infrastructure.

In 2002 – The Queensland State Government initiated a $1 million “Mobile Advanced Water Recycling Demonstration Plant”. Documentation obtained under Freedom of Information puts the fairness of the tendering process in doubt.

Documentation obtained under Freedom Of Information states that the design was taken directly from the 1995 AWWA Direct Potable Reuse Demonstration Project.

In 2004 – The Sydney Morning Herald ran a campaign in the paper while Professor Fred Himler held a very high position with the paper. The campaign was directed at forcing the New South Wales Government to reject desalination and build a potable reuse plant instead. Article after article stated that the treated sewage effluent was to be used for environmental flows, for use in industry and irrigation. One article in the entire campaign mentioned it was also to be used for drinking purposes.

Services Sydney , a company part owned by Macquarie Bank, had previously applied to the National Competition Council for access to Sydney Water’s sewage system. Their application states their intent was to introduce treated sewage effluent for drinking purposes–but not at this time.

In 2004 – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation {ABC}, owned by the Federal Government, ran a story on their Four Corners program entitled “City Limits”. The program was biased:

  • Against dams, desalination and ocean outfalls,
  • In favor of planned indirect and direct potable reuse.

Complaints to ABC Managing Director Russell Balding fell on deaf ears. I sent complaints to the “Independent Complaints Tribunal”. Replies came to me from Russell Balding, who has since taken up employment with Macquarie Bank.

From 2002 onward – The Queensland State Government redrew their Freedom Of Information legislation. It is now much more expensive and it exempts anything that had gone before Cabinet, a part of the Queensland State Government’s processes.

2006 – Toowoomba residents learned that the City Council had decided to force the introduction of planned Indirect Potable Reuse by accident. As a condition of Federal funding, the Council was forced to hold a referendum. The council supplied in excess of $450,000 for the “Yes” case. The “No” case received no funds. Promoters of Indirect Potable Reuse who converged on Toowoomba included:

  • CSIRO,
  • AWA (formerly AWWA Old Branch),
  • Universities involved in research into direct potable reuse,
  • Local school children were also used.

The referendum result was 68% against Indirect Potable Reuse introduction. Residents were unaware that a consortium including the University of Queensland had been trying to introduce Direct Potable Reuse since 1995.

Despite the referendum result, the Queensland State Government ignored resident’s opposition. They decided to force the introduction of treated sewage effluent into public drinking water supply mains. The Australian Federal Government said nothing. Since 1995, they have backed forced introduction of Direct Potable Reuse through CSIRO.

2006 – The Queensland State Government initiates their Water commission (QWC) to provide advice to the government on water supply planning.

Elizabeth Nosworthy, AO, Chairs the commission. Elizabeth, Deputy Chair of Babcock and Brown, was also a member of the National Competition Council for five years. The Commission forms their Expert Advisory Panel which includes representatives from the University of Queensland , (Chair), CSIRO, Washington State University , University of Waikato , Michigan State University, Singapore Public Utility Board, Australian Medical Association, (AMA) and Professor Ian Frazer.

Despite stating that the QWC is independent, the Commission’s partners include numerous State Government departments and Service providers. The Expert Panel also includes a majority of proponents of potable reuse.

2006-2007 – The Murdoch-owned Courier Mail ran a campaign to force introduction of treated sewage effluent into public drinking water supply mains without community consultation. The Queensland State Government decided to deny all Queenslanders their hard fought for rights to:

  • Basic democracy,
  • Freedom of speech,
  • Freedom of expression,
  • Freedom of choice.

The Australian Federal Government said nothing.

January 2007 – The Courier Mail runs a front page story, “H20-La-La-FRENCH TO PROFIT FROM OUR DROUGHT”. “In a little publicized deal, Paris-based Veolia Water has been awarded lucrative contracts by the State Government to run the $1 – 7 billion western corridor recycled water pipeline and the $1 – 3 billion Gold Coast desalination plant.”

2007 – “FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES” Sunshine Coast Daily article, June 2nd 2007. “Special Investigation How One Company Has Built Its Own Private Gateway into the Premier’s Office”. “The flow of former ministers and senior bureaucrats to private companies that could benefit from government contracts has prompted calls for a thorough examination of the ties between the public and private sectors in Queensland . Queensland Coordinator General Ross Rolfe is the latest influential figure to trade his publicly-funded position for a lucrative contract with global investment banker and advisory giant Babcock and Brown”.

December 2007 – The Queensland State Government decided to force fluoride into public drinking water supply mains. Ads being aired state that all other Australian states have fluoride and that it is safe. These ads are deceptive and misleading. This is a world’s first injection of fluoride to treated sewage effluent drinking water. No other country worldwide adds fluoride to treated sewage effluent sourced from hospitals, industry, homes and abattoirs in the percentages planned. The injection percentage ranges up to 100% Direct Potable Reuse as confirmed by Premier Anna Bligh. This equals Direct Potable Reuse.

Experimental use of humans, without their written permission, violates basic human rights. Yet that is what the Queensland State Government is doing. Planned Indirect Potable Reuse and Direct Potable Reuse, of treated sewage effluent sourced from hospitals, industry, homes and abattoirs as planned here is wrong.

This plan uses my family and community as research guinea pigs. This is the world’s first known intergenerational human health experiment. To this day, Queensland residents are unaware that direct potable reuse is to be introduced. The media, in general, refuses to truthfully and fully inform the residents on this issue.

2009 – Additional thoughts and comments from Laurence Jones (Added on February 16, 2009)

Thank you very much for the book ‘Sustainable Development: Global to Local Action Plans. In Chapter 11 you ask the question, “Have we been dumbed out’? The answer is “Yes.” The Queensland State Government recently forced the introduction of fluoride into our drinking water supplies as is done in the US. Hitler used fluoride to calm prisoners down (dumb them down) during the World War II. With Agenda 21 comes fluoride. An organization on Queensland’s Gold Coast is involved in fighting both the forced introduction of fluoride and treated sewage effluent. Their site has raised more than enough information to have it removed.

In Chapter 8, the second major component of sustainable development is to establish an educational system to indoctrinate youth for global governance. In 1997, water education was produced for use in schools. By 1998 the AWA “We All Use Water” Education Program replaced it. By 2004 it was incorporated into the State Government’s Waterwise Program. The first two were biased against dams, ocean outfalls and equally biased in favor of indirect and direct potable reuse of treated sewage effluent.

I am presently waiting for the Waterwise kit to arrive. However, I already know that it covers purified recycled water. The State Government, Sunshine Coast Environment Council, Australian Water Association and two local councils were represented on the steering committees of the first two education programs.

The “We All Use Water” education program includes a poster with Indirect and Direct Potable Reuse illustrated as a part of the Total Water Cycle.

The Queensland State Government used the term ‘Sustainable Development’ to force the introduction of treated sewage effluent into our drinking water supply mains (delayed until after the next election), force the introduction of fluoride and force the amalgamation of local councils. Now it is much easier for the environment movement to gain control over these councils. Before amalgamation, we had three councils, Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa. Now we have one and it is dominated by the environmental movement.


  1. The Water Futures Blogspot:
  2. ” Australia ‘s 1998 National Report To The United Nations Commission On Sustainable Development”:
  3. “From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking” New York Times article on reusing sewage in San Diego and Orange County , California :
  4. “Education Needs Background Study”, by Nexus Australiea.
  5. Article: “H20-La-La: The Courier Mail, January 31, 2007, written by Greg Stolz.
  6. Article: “Friends in High Places”. Sunshine Coast Daily, June 2nd, 2007, written by Carolyn Tucker.

Australia Water History by Laurence Jones

Laurence Jones is an Australian citizen who has been researching the Australian water issue for over 10 years. Email: 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email