Australians have come to expect and take for granted the provision of safe water. Water is essential for life and commercial and public premises should be able to guarantee that the water they provide is safe for drinking.
Water quality not only applies to drinking water but also to recreational water. Contact with contaminated recreational water can still make a person sick. For this reason, guidelines for bacterial and chemical levels are set for not only drinking water but also recreational water bodies.
Safe drinking water is essential to good health. The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) provide a framework for good management of drinking water supplies.
Within the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham water is provided by the Water Corporation who conduct regular testing to ensure the quality of water is maintained. Any enquiries regarding the quality of the reticulated water supply should be directed to the Water Corporation.
Properties which are located outside of town sites must provide their own water for drinking washing and gardening. Many rural properties rely on groundwater from a bore, while some take surface water. These activities may require a licence from the Department of Water. Water taken from rivers or bores can be exposed to many sources of contamination and if it is to be used for drinking, washing or food preparation should be treated and tested regularly to determine if it is safe for these uses.
More information on drinking water quality management can be found on the Department of Health website.
Public Swimming Pools
If not adequately disinfected swimming pool water can contain microorganisms which can make swimmers sick. Swimming pool operators are required to check the water quality of their pools regularly to ensure the water quality is maintained. The Shire takes samples from public pools every month to confirm the microbiological quality of the water is being adequately maintained.
If you use a public swimming pool you can help to protect the quality of the water by ensuring you and any children with you do not enter the water if you have suffered from diarrhoea or gastroenteritis in the last 14 days. Babies and children who ordinarily wear nappies must wear an aqua-nappy when in the water.
Natural Water Bodies
Natural water bodies such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs and waterholes can be polluted and unsafe to swim in. Most natural water bodies in the Shire are not monitored for water quality and should be entered with caution. You can reduce your exposure to unsafe water by ensuring you and your children do not:
- Swim in water that looks discoloured, murky or smells unpleasant.
- Swallow water or put your head under water if you are unsure of the quality.
- Swim if you have an open wound or infection.
- Swim in warm, slow moving, stagnant water.
Many water bodies within the Shire are home to saltwater and/or freshwater crocodiles. Be cautious near any natural water body and take note of any warning signs.
Amoebic meningitis is a very rare, but usually fatal condition, caused by the amoebae Naegleria fowleri. This is a naturally occurring organism and can be present in any natural fresh water body. The amoebae is destroyed by chlorine and cannot survive in adequately disinfected swimming pools. Amoebae are most active in water above 28ºC and are a particular risk during the wet season months when temperatures increase.
You can only get amoebic meningitis if water containing the active amoebae goes up the nose. You cannot catch it from another person or by drinking contaminated water. Children are the most susceptible.
Amoebic meningitis is very rare; there have only been three recorded cases in WA and none since 1985. However, it is usually fatal so prevention is vital. To prevent infection:
- Do not jump or dive into natural bodies of freshwater, particularly when the water temperature is high.
- Make sure private swimming pools are adequately disinfected.
- Do not let children play with hoses and sprinklers, particularly if the water is from an unmonitored source (eg. private bore).
- Keep wading pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and allowing them to dry in the sun after each use.
For more information about amoebic meningitis visit the Healthy WA website.
For more information on water quality, please contact the Shire’s Environmental Health Officer on (08) 9168 4100.