Buried dams help clean recycled water

Disease-causing microbes can effectively be eliminated from recycled water by storing it underground, according to scientists at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Disease-causing microbes can effectively be eliminated from recycled water by storing it underground, according to scientists at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Promising research findings into natural ways to cleanse polluted water have brought Australia a step closer to a revolution in water reclamation - the "underground dam." Researchers at CSIRO Land and Water have for several years been investigating the feasibility of diverting urban stormwater and treated effluent into underground aquifers, where it can be recycled for use on parks, gardens, ovals and farms. The idea is to harvest surplus water during the wet part of the year, store it underground for some months, then bring it to the surface again for irrigation during the dry season.

Now, microbiologist Dr. Simon Toze has produced clear evidence that storing water underground also purges it of disease-causing organisms, making it clean enough to recycle as irrigation. "We've been studying the behaviour and fate of various microbes in groundwater taken from different parts of the country," he explained. Once underground, the disease-causing organisms face a hostile array of conditions such as temperature changes, lack of oxygen, lack of nutrients and a whole army of naturally occurring groundwater microorganisms that kill or inactivate them.

"This makes underground storage one of the most promising ways to cleanse and recycle water," Dr. Toze said.

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