The number of water-induced problems in Australian cities has soared in recent years, according to a report from the Australian Water Quality Monitoring Group (AWQMG).
Key points:The AWQMG found that in Sydney and Melbourne, the number of residents with water-borne illnesses and infections in 2014-15 was more than twice that of other citiesThe AWG report says some areas are more water-insecure than others, and some have a higher prevalence of waterborne illness than othersThe AWPMG says that while some water-specific health issues are caused by water contamination, many are caused more by other factorsThe AWPG says there are more than 30 water-influenced conditions in Australia, with many more being caused by other causes, including air pollution, lack of access to clean water and other factors.
According to the AWQPG, Sydney has the highest water-associated illness rate of all Australian cities, followed by Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
It said Sydney had the highest incidence of water borne illness in 2014 and 2015.
“We have the highest number of cases of water sickness in Sydney, followed closely by Melbourne and Canberra,” the AWPPG said.
“The water borne infections were higher in Sydney than in all other Australian cities combined.”
The AWQUPG found that most of the issues were caused by the presence of untreated wastewater in water treatment plants, although the number and type of water treatment facilities in some areas had a higher water-to-wastewater ratio than others.
“Waterborne illnesses were more prevalent in Sydney for all water-sensitive conditions and were more common in urban areas,” the report said.
The AWQuG also found that Sydney had a lower prevalence of infections of the urinary tract, pneumonia, gastroenteritis and asthma in 2014, compared to all other cities combined.
“Asymptomatic infections and diarrhoea were the most common water-caused health problems in Sydney in 2014,” it said.
In Melbourne, waterborne illnesses increased by 9 per cent to 10 per cent between 2014 and the end of 2015, with waterborne diarrhoeas increasing by 30 per cent and waterborne infections rising by 29 per cent.
“There were a number of different water-dependent conditions that resulted in infections,” the study said.
The AWHPG said Melbourne had a high incidence of air pollution in 2014.
The Australian Water Resources Association (AWRA), which represents Australian water suppliers, said water-management systems were often not working and that “we should expect more waterborne issues”.
“We also have concerns about water quality in some cities, particularly in the north and the inner west, with increased concentrations of toxic metals in water,” AWRA chief executive David MacLeod said.
He said there were also concerns about “lack of communication between water managers and water users”.
The AWRA said some water users were taking advantage of the lack of communication.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to understand the risks associated with the water they are using and the health risks associated,” he said.
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