23 October 2020

Icon Water releases drinking water report in a year of extremes

| Sharon Kelley
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Icon Water worker testing water quality.

Icon Water has released its drinking water quality report this week. Photos: Supplied.

The last thing people worry about after a hailstorm, bushfire or pandemic is turning on the tap to get a glass of water.

And that’s how Icon Water wants it to stay.

This year, Canberrans faced hailstorms, bushfires and the global COVID-19 pandemic, all of which potentially threatened the safety of the city’s drinking water but didn’t thanks to preemptive management and high standards of screening, testing and catchment management.

Icon Water’s infrastructure services general manager Gerard Brierley said it has been a busy 12 months for the water supplier, but the rigorous water quality management framework that ensures Canberra’s drinking water supply is safe has continued to provide a high standard of supply to Canberra’s homes.

Cotter Dam.

Cotter Dam, which Icon Water was able to keep safe for drinking water during the Black Summer bushfires. Photo: Supplied.

“The Orroral Valley bushfire had the most potential for impact, but thankfully it didn’t,” he said. “The fire threatened the Corin and Bendora catchments so we immediately worked with emergency services and the Australian Army after the fire had passed to put coir logs in place before the next heavy rainfall.”

Icon Water’s actions, along with work by the Australian Defence Force, in the days following the fire secured the drinking water supply, ensuring the last thing Canberrans had to worry about was the safety of their water.

“The army helped us during that event,” said Mr Brierley. “Our teams on the ground worked with emergency services and the fire brigade to make sure firefighting retardant foam was non-toxic, and we also worked with ESA [ACT Emergency Services Agency] to apply a 1km exclusion zone around our waterways.

“Our sampling and testing program in dams and reservoirs identifies anything in our source water that we need to watch, and we have testing all the way through the treatment process right to customer taps.

“We’re pretty proud of our 100 per cent compliance to the Public Health (Drinking Water) Code of Practice 2007. That assures Canberrans that when they turn on a tap, it’s safe to drink.”

Workers at Icon Water's treatment plant.

Icon Water’s rigorous testing regime has ensured 100 per cent compliance with the Public Health (Drinking Water) Code of Practice. Photo: Supplied.

Bushfires were not the only threat to our water supply during the past 12 months. With the onset of the global pandemic, Icon Water’s testing and treatment of drinking water has included mitigating the threat of COVID-19 being transmitted through it.

“We needed to know there was absolutely no risk of our water being contaminated by the virus,” said Mr Brierley. “The World Health Organization has confirmed that transmission of COVID-19 is not a risk in drinking water.

“Even if it had been a risk, the way we treat Canberra’s water prior to releasing it into the drinking water system eradicates viruses, and our testing regime ensures it works.”

READ ALSO COVID-19 safe? We now know it is in our waters

In 2019-2020, Icon Water treated and supplied more than 55,000 megalitres of water to Canberra and Queanbeyan residents, and the 2019-2020 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report released this week explains the rigorous water quality management framework the company uses to ensure our drinking water is safe.

“Our multi-barrier approach to ensuring water quality starts as far upstream as where the water is sourced, and includes the option to switch between three separate catchments: Cotter, Googong and Upper Murrumbidgee,” said Mr Brierley.

“Canberrans can be confident we have the right people, systems and processes in place to manage the ACT’s drinking water supply throughout any challenge our community faces.”

Icon Water’s 2019-2020 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report can be read here.

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