, Volume 123, Issue 1-4, pp 419-436

The Great Sydney Water Crisis of 1998

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Abstract

This paper traces the history of the contamination of Sydney's water supply between July and September 1998, its impact and consequences. Routine testing found persistently high readings of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in the water supply. After initial official inactivity, health warnings were issued leading to comprehensive boil water alerts. The paper examines the issues of scientific uncertainty and the response of the Government to the crisis. In particular, the paper examines the establishment and course of the Sydney Water Inquiry, chaired by Peter McClellan, QC, which delivered its final report in December 1998. The recommendations of the Inquiry are assessed, in particular the establishment of an independent catchment management authority, augmentation of treatment processes, and upgraded monitoring and research. Implementation of the recommendations by the Government by legislative and executive act is also addressed. Finally, the lessons to be learned are discussed, especially care of the catchment and restrictions on certain types of development within it. Postcript: Amazingly, no one got sick!