Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Drinking water is a human right

This coming Friday 24th February, the Treasurer and local councils will sit down to discus drinking water.

They should have, at the top of the very top of their agenda, a discussion of the options available to them to quickly cut the number of water alerts in our state.

So far, the lead up to the meeting has been more about politics than policy, but there is still time for all participants to focus on the most important issue here.

Tasmania desperately needs real outcomes from Friday’s meeting. We need more than the megaphone diplomacy that seems to be leading up to the meeting.

Access to an environment free from pollution should be a basic human right in Tasmania1.

This includes access to clean drinking water.

If people attending on Friday were to acknowledge this is a matter of basic human rights, it would help put the issue into proper perspective.

It is unfair that some residents in smaller towns have had to deal with dirty drinking water for years when it would never be accepted in our bigger cities.

Tasmania has been through a large amount of water policy reform since 2008 but improvements to drinking water quality seem to be too slow in taking effect.

It should be acknowledged that investment in water infrastructure is occurring and that gains are being made. However the pace of change is frustratingly slow.

It’s just not good enough that in Tasmanian today there are 21 current Boil Water alerts and four Do Not Consume alerts.

All eyes will be on Friday’s meeting watching and waiting for real outcomes.

Ref …

1.as recommended in 2007 by the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (recommendation 16): http://www.utas.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/283728/Human_Rights_A4_Final_10_Oct_2007_revised.pdf

*Richard Griggs is Tasmanian Director of Civil Liberties Australia and lead petitioner for a Tasmanian Human Rights Act: www.tashumanrightsact.org

Media here, for Greens, Labor, Libs perspective …

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Jonsho

    March 13, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    How the hell were these things ever allowed to be sold in shampoos etc to be washed into the rivers, streams and oceans to be ingested by fish and shellfish and then end up on our dinner plates? Do any governments possess a functioning brain between them?

  2. mJf

    March 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Impressive re catchment management:


  3. Ted Mead

    March 3, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Clean water and our legal right to it goes far beyond the belief that only third world countries have monumental issues facing them. In Australia with prolonged drought and increasing concessions to corporate industries, access to clean water for human consumption is shaping up to be a grand issue in the future!

    Imperative for health and survival, our water supplies should be a priority concern for us, and our governments. The careful management of drinking water should not be left to the limited control of municipal councils, and easily influenced state governments rather it should be enshrined in a constitutional right as a means of protection a vital resource.
    Slovenia has just become the first EU country to protect the public right to clean water in their constitution and this is something we should follow in Australia.

    In Tasmania it is obvious that access of our quality water supplies to corporate industries has been a simple process. The failed Gunns pulp mill project revealed that the Lennon government was willing to both supply their water and infrastructure to the cost of the public purse.

    With Tasmanian legislation such as the ‘Projects of State of Significance’ the granting of public water to corporate interests comes with the imposition of no threat of legal action against a project as approval processing can be circumvented or fast- tracked to support construction or development.

    Meanwhile throughout Tasmania, many townships are currently subjected to poor quality water due to aging infrastructure, contaminants from agriculture, forestry and mining. Successive Tasmanian governments have failed in their duty of care by not protecting water collective catchments and permitting unbridled forestry to log, clear, burn and poison ecosystems.

    The Tasmanian Liberal government’s move to control the Tas Water body should be treated with scepticism, and may not reflect a view towards a better outcome for human water consumption in the state.

    Poor quality water as a result of vegetation clearance is a reoccurring theme, and scientific studies have claimed that to retain high quality water then a forest of near a century-old should be retained. Victoria has addressed this and Melbourne’s water catchment is now free from logging.

    In Tasmania we know what is happening in our water catchments, protecting them from contaminants is an imperative!

  4. john hayward

    February 28, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    O’Brien, #12. Tas has a fail-safe system for its officials. Even if there were unambiguous laws compelling them to enforce certain obligations to the public, there are no agencies which could be counted on to enforce them.

    I thought I had a legal killer-blow some years ago, only to have the application sat on until it was out of time, and then answered with a claim it was the responsibility of a department which had no legal responsibility for it, and was unaware of its existence.

    John Hayward

  5. Russell

    February 28, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Don’t just worry about the water you drink. 25% of all fish you buy are contaminated by toxic micro-beads.

    How the hell were these things ever allowed to be sold in shampoos etc to be washed into the rivers, streams and oceans to be ingested by fish and shellfish and then end up on our dinner plates?

    Do any governments possess a functioning brain between them?

    Modern-day humans have a suicidal wish driven by capitalistic short-term greed.

    First we pollute every square millimetre of our planet until we are annihilated by capitalist poisons, then we look to expand the pollution to the universe!

    Re #12
    Why does it need to be written? Humans are around 65% water, so try living without it.

  6. Richard Griggs

    February 26, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    #12 O’Brien, my comment was that access to an environment free from pollution should be a basic human right in Tasmania. In 2007 the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute recommend our state needs a Human Rights Act and that it should include this particular right. In this article I argue that would extend to drinkable water. In terms of who would enforce it, the model proposed by the Law Reform Institute would give a Human Rights Commissioner the power to investigate but ultimately it would require a citizen to use the Human Rights Act and enforce their rights.

  7. Pete Godfrey

    February 26, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    #12 O’Brien, it must be written somewhere, check the back of the coaster your tea cup sits on, or a coaster at the pub. I am sure you will find it.
    Really clean water should be a right for all beings, since when do we have the right to go around stuffing up the biosphere so that other forms of life cannot live here.
    The sooner the big friendly aliens come and force us to fix the place the better, it seems that humans just don’t have what it takes.
    All the focus on the economy and money, certainly don’t seem to be making the planet a better place to be.

  8. Alison Bleaney

    February 26, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    #11 As long as the ‘testing’ tests for pollutants likely to be in the raw water and are done frequently enough to afford confidence in the results. Current TasWater testing is infrequent grab samples and obviously detecting less pollutants than even DPIPWEs 2 monthly targeted catchment ( grab samples and suspended solids removed) sampling which was suddenly stopped to eliminate further detections injurious to both the community drinking / using the water and the Govts responsibilities and accountability for water catchment protection and the provision of safe potable DW. Glyphosate has not been tested for by Gvt for some years as Public Health felt it was not often detected in water once the sediment and suspended solids was removed. If whole water sampling was done, then the results were very different.
    The current sampling is really quite restricted and so the results are the same. Organic material in raw water leads to its own set of problems when chlorine is added and DHHS and TasWater are keeping very quiet about this and that’s on top of heavy metal and pesticide pollution.

  9. O'Brien

    February 26, 2017 at 5:55 am

    Where is it written water is a human right? Who or what would enforce this if it were indeed so? The only right we have is to fork over everything we have for the privilege of not being dead.

  10. Derbytas

    February 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Barry #8 Your point could be solved by Taswater bringing in Real-time Test Result reporting

  11. Derbytas

    February 24, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Andrew for your answer you must go back to the enclosure of the commons. Way back when everyone could go down to the local stream and dip in a bucket and get potable water. It was the resultant rush to the cities that created the need for reticulated water. Of course everyone getting reticulated water deserves that water to be potable. Chlorination of water came about because the quality of the reticulated water became sometimes risky to drink. Towns like Derby had beautiful water…straight out of the river into your tap and top notch quality; well that was until Forestry Tasmania began dumping chemicals into the catchment. Nowadays we have people who have been reared on chlorinated travelling into rural areas (like Derby) that expect not just potable water but chlorinated potable water, because they are not so immune to the naturalness of the local water. And so now we (are to) get chlorinated water at great expense to the Taxpayers of Tasmania.
    Many people in rural areas cannot drink roof water because their neighbours who use chemicals cannot keep those chemicals within their own fence-lines.
    Many people in many towns and cities are unable to drink tankwater because of the danger of contamination drifting in from across their fences too.

  12. Alison Bleaney

    February 23, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Regarding pollutants in raw or treated water or effluent, absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence.

  13. Barry

    February 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Ad just to add another dimension to the water debate. DPI stopped all its pesticide water monitoring a couple of years ago so now any spray or run off will go undetected unless there is a major incident involving crop destruction or fish deaths. Sprayers now have nothing to fear from poor practices as there is no one looking.

  14. Alison Bleaney

    February 22, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    The problem with the broke councils (#6) is that they were deliberately not looking for any problems with W&S as they had neither the expertise or finances to deal with said problems. The costs were less, but the problems were mostly unknown and hence unquantified and so unfixed. Now we have increased costs, some more facts re identified issues but much more to be done to bring even the current approach up to first world standards. The problem of antiquated infrastructure and just fixing current problems with a thumb in the dam approach is becoming increasingly obvious and embarrassing for the Tasmanian ‘image’!
    10 years later and it sounds like a broken record.
    Those responsible and accountable do indeed need to ‘buck up’!

  15. mike seabrook

    February 22, 2017 at 1:14 am

    and big brother with one monopolist statewide organisation responsible and accountable to in effect no-one before being sold off to a price gouging monopoilst is best positioned to manage this debacle – who is kidding who

    for accountability and responsibility – have the smallest entities possible managing things.

    surely the broke councils would have been preferred.

  16. john hayward

    February 21, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    #2, Godfrey. Tas legislation can all be described as “scraps of paper”, which means it is wholly dependent on officialdom prepared to accord it priority over their own interests.

    John Hayward

  17. Philip Lowe

    February 21, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    In a country that pleads water poverty I could never understand the number of houses with swimming pools,not to mention the golf courses.

  18. Andrew Heard

    February 21, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Our drinking water comes from our water tank, collected off our houses roof. Naturally, we had to pay for it all ourselves, as do lots of people. We don’t live in an area with mains water. Should we expect mains water as a human right? If you don’t want to boil water from that supplied from your tap consider installing a water tank too.

  19. Pete Godfrey

    February 21, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Richard I suggest that if you are at the meeting you print out the extract from the Waterworks Clauses Act of 1952. Ask the government members why it was seen as necessary to supply people with clean drinkable water then but not now.

    PART III – Supply of Water
    18. Supply of clean and wholesome water for domestic use
    (1) The undertakers shall provide and keep in the pipes laid down by them a supply of pure and
    wholesome water sufficient for the domestic use of all the inhabitants of the water district who are
    entitled to demand a supply and are willing to pay the proper rates and charges for it.
    (2) Except when it is necessary to turn off the water for the purposes of the alteration or
    maintenance of the undertaking, the supply shall be constantly laid on at such a pressure as will make
    the water reach the top storeys of the highest houses in the water district, unless it is provided in the
    special Act that the water supplied by the undertakers need not constantly be laid on at such pressure.
    (3) In this section –
    “pure and wholesome” means clean, free from obvious suspended matter, and free
    from toxic substances and pathogenic organisms in amounts harmful to humans.

  20. john hayward

    February 21, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Clean water is not a statutory human right in Australia, nor is much of anything else, except maybe interstate trade, in the absence of a bill of rights.

    The Tas LibLabs show a distinct lack of interest in any general rights which might constrain their own. In dealing with the resolutely deaf, a megaphone is often necessary.

    John Hayward

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top