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Tapping into factors behind Yeppoon’s great drinking water

Published:01 October 2019

TOP: Associate Professor Larelle Fabbro and LSC Water Quality Officer Michael Dalton at the Sustainable Livingstone Expo in Yeppoon. BELOW: Assoc Prof Fabbro explains scientific elements behind Yeppoon's prize-winning drinking water.

What goes into the Capricorn Coast’s tap water to make it taste so good – or more importantly, what is kept out?

That’s a question which has been explored by CQUniversity and Livingstone Shire Council (LSC) and answered with a presentation to the recent Sustainable Livingstone Expo.

Leader of the CQUni side of the project, Associate Professor Larelle Fabbro says the LSC tap water consistently places highly in municipal water taste test competitions.

The water is sourced from Waterpark Creek and Kelly’s Dam and benefits from sand dune filtration in a protected area, with low availability of nutrients, low use of pesticides and herbicides, and reduced numbers of domestic animals and human wastes.

“We looked into the factors like the source and hydrogeology of the catchment, the quality of the catchment, the structure of Kelly’s Dam, stratification and mixing, the chemical and physical characteristics of the source water, biota in the source water including bacteria, the quality of the water treatment plant, trained high-quality staff, pride in the product, and features of the distribution system,” Associate Professor Fabbro says.

“We found algae which are indicators of good water quality, as they require clean, clear water and are very easily impacted by herbicides and contaminants.

“Capricorn Coast water proved to have low conductivity, with most of the water column oxygenated, along with low turbidity (without mud or blue-green algal blooms), a lack of contaminants, low or no cattle or sewage/septic contamination, low nutrients, pesticides and herbicides, and low manganese.”

The combined CQUni/LSC presentation also canvassed future risks to water quality which could be managed, including fish releases, herbicides and nutrients.

CQUni and LSC are engaged in a range of cooperative projects, including the use of Kelly’s Dam to teach students about hands-on water monitoring techniques, and access to Yeppoon Wastewater Treatment Plant to teach students elements of wastewater treatment.

The CQUni team involved in the project included Alison Craig, Geeta Gautam Kafle, Tiffany Brown, Lorna Wells, Assoc Prof Larelle Fabbro, Dr Leo Duivenvoorden and Dr Judith Wake. The LSC team included Michael Dalton, Glenn McIntyre, Bill van Wees and Sean Fallis.

Associate Professor Fabbro recently advised LSC on a blue-green algal bloom in Ross Creek, which gained attention following a sewerage pipe leak in the same area.

She said the cyanobacteria identified in the samples collected from the creek and surrounds are not known to produce toxins, but could cause irritation to the skin and eyes of swimmers.