Abstract

There is a substantial research gap relating to the quality of drinking water in regional Australia and identifying possible improvements. In particular, the quality of water available in public places (washing and drinking), such as water bubblers installed in regional parks, schools, rest areas and railway stations, is poorly investigated. This paper discusses the primary and secondary water quality of eight water distribution networks in New South Wales (NSW) regional towns. An analysis of a large number of drinking water samples (more than 11,000) identified that maintaining microbial water quality and the required free chlorine level (>0.2 mg/L) are challenging issues for regional water distribution networks. Sixty-three per cent of the samples collected from the water outlets available in public places of a regional town showed free chlorine levels of <0.2 mg/L, and 30% of samples showed positive results for total coliform. All heavy metal levels of the samples were within the safe level. Water temperature was identified as the most problematic secondary water quality parameter in public water bubblers. Stainless steel was the common material used in bubblers where surface temperatures exceeded 50 °C during summer. This study identifies possible design and operational modifications to improve regional drinking water quality and make public water bubblers more usable.

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