BushFires and Your Water. What you really DO need to know

IAN BLAIR HAMILTON | FOUNDER

We’ve kept this report in basic form. Now is not the time for fancy graphics. Our message is what is important and we suggest you print this off and share it, or pass it on via email or facebook to your friends.

Let's look at the problems that we have right now with our water supplies. This relates to particularly New South Wales and Queensland although it will most likely relate very soon to West Australia.

The bushfires that we have experienced so far have been catastrophic. Vast areas of bushland have been decimated. We know – and have experienced the results in the form of the huge smoke and ash curtains that have sent thousands of people to the doctors or to hospitals for respiratory complaints.

However – what we have not considered is the fact that ash from fires is a form of oxide. It’s an oxide of everything it has burnt. It burns a house or a galvanized tank or a car or a road the minerals and the toxins in those materials ascend into our atmosphere – just like the smoke from a burning tree.

Anyone who has a swimming pool in Sydney would have seen the effect of this in the surface of their pool which became black and discoloured through ash falling. Layne Beachley, the champion woman surfer described it as surreal when she surfed in Sydney last week and became covered with ash. ash was all over the surface of the sea.

While this may appear to be a cosmetic problem, it is far more than that, because the ash is also falling into all of our absolutely essential water storage areas – the places we get our drinking water from.

We have no idea of the makeup of the toxins in the ash and yet we have to continue to supply people with drinking water. That is problem number one.

Problem number 2 is waiting in the wings.

Problem number 2 is the vast amount of ash and loose soil now on the ground in all of the burnt areas which feed our water catchment areas. Ash acts like a sponge, soaking up water and becoming a huge amount of debris in fine form – ready to be washed into our catchment areas. All it needs according to a university expert is a minimum of 50 mil of rainfall in those burnt areas that feed the catchments to start a flow of water into the catchments – and that water will contain the ash. It will also contain an enormous amount of organic matter because the ground surface of all of the burnt areas now has nothing to protect it, nothing to hold it from being washed down into the Reservoir.

When this occurs there is another problem and we call it turbidity. It means the amount of dissolved and undissolved solids in the water. Even if that organic matter was not in of itself harmful, it still places a huge load on the water purification system. Before it even chlorinates the water, the water authority to allow it to settle to remove this turbidity so that relatively clean water can be passed to chlorination. When turbidity is high (and it is very high at the moment) we already have it double normal in Newcastle. In Woy Woy we have brown water coming out of the taps, clearly indicating that the systems in place are not capable of doing their job.

It does makes sense. Our water supply or water filtration system installed by and budgeted for by a government is designed for normal situations and is not necessarily designed for cataclysmic events such as these.

Problem Three
The next problem we have is this organic matter reacting with chlorine, They call the result disinfection byproducts or trihalomethanes. These are carcinogens so that unless the authority can take enough organic material out of the water before chlorinating the result will be trihalomethanes in our water.

Finally (to make it even worse) we have Problem 4

The problem of low water levels.

Of itself, low water levels are not a problem. The problem arises when a reservoir reaches low water levels. The wildlife consisting of bacteria consisting of parasites, consisting of anything that is alive and shouldn't be there – is concentrated. It was there when the reservoir was full and now it's there when the reservoir is less full.

Think of it this way. If you boil a pot of water until half of the water has gone has anything in the water as far as contaminants been taken out? No. It's the same with a reservoir.

So the water authority has a new problem. Iit has far higher concentrations of health threatening parasites and bacteria. The only methods that they have to overcome this problem is chemical. There is no other methods. They have to increase dosages of chlorine.
(I can remember taking a shower during the last drought breathing in the chlorine gas it was not an experience I would like to repeat!)

If you're using the water for your garden and it has excess chlorine you’ll kill everything in the soil. If you're trying to cook or make to your coffee with the water you'll find it affects every recipe you have – and yet it is the only thing the water authority can do.

Let’s not forget the ’Usual Suspects’’

Nothing has really changed in our ‘normal’ contaminants that – even with no bushfires – mean we already get a chemical cocktail of chlorine, chloramines and fluoride. Add to that local chemical cocktail ingredients like arsenic, PFOAs, nitrates, lead, heavy metals…. aach one of them a reason to own a water filter.

Now let's look at the ways you can protect yourself.

in 1998 and in 2007 most people chose reverse osmosis as a way to remove everything from their water.

Reverse osmosis is very effective at removing everything from water if sediment or turbidity levels are relatively normal or you are connected to a functioning municipal supply.

In situations like this where we have increased turbidity, reverse osmosis system need more pre-filtration in the form of carbon – otherwise it will block up very quickly and you’ll spend hours upon hours under the sink changing filters. That is if you know it has run out of filtering power. There’s no easy way on an RO to know it isn’t working properly.

The other problem with reverse osmosis that we have today – which we did not have in the previous water crisis is our overall lack of water. The best reverse osmosis system on the market (the only one we recommend here) still wastes as much water as it gives. If you get a litre of pure water from your reverse osmosis system a litre will go down the drain.

If you are capable of collecting that water that would normally go down the drain (in a bucket under the sink!) you will find that all of the dissolved solids we spoke about are now in that wastewater. The only good news about that is that plants like water with ample dissolved solids so if you do collect the water in a bucket and carry it into the garden the plants will thank you for it. If you don't and you allow the water to go down the drain you are certainly not playing your part in community water conservation.

in 1998 and in 2007 filtration methods other than reverse osmosis were certainly not as sophisticated as they are today. We now have filtration systems with results on a par with reverse osmosis which do not waste any water. this means a saving in cost of system – but also a simpler more manageable system.

We have specified two systems that will cope with the current water crisis. One is reverse osmosis 1 is a combination of filters. Both require under sink installation.

We need to say that a cheap filter from the local hardware store is not going to do the job for you. The only thing it will give you is a feeling of safety. The configurations of products that we are showing you have been designed specifically for the present water crisis and beyond.

We will explain enough for you to understand the difference and advantages of each how to get more information you will need to contact us.

We are expecting many people to contact us, and based on what happened last time (1998 and in 2007) we believe many people may be disappointed.

That’s why we suggest that you read this document carefully and if possible make your choice before calling on us for advice.