Water shock - restrictions may be a permanent way of life for Katherine

If the Government gets its way, Katherine will keep its title as the only population settlement in Australia to have water restrictions because of PFAS contamination.
If the Government gets its way, Katherine will keep its title as the only population settlement in Australia to have water restrictions because of PFAS contamination.

Katherine's water restrictions may be permanent.

The town may stay on water restrictions even after the new $15m treatment plant is operational next year.

In doing so, it would maintain its unfortunate title as being the only population in Australia to have water restrictions because of PFAS contamination.

Despite having access to a surplus of safe drinking water, the NT Government says the current restrictions will likely remain.

When the restrictions were introduced as an emergency measure three years ago because of PFAS contamination, there was a belief they were only temporary.

But this week there has been a shift in thinking on the issue.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Chief Minister said the Katherine community has been doing "a good job" to reduce water consumption with an odds and evens household garden watering program.

"The new treatment plant, will provide further reassurance that Katherine's drinking water will continue to be safe as it will meet the town's current and forecast water use demands," the spokeswoman said.

"While the commissioning of the treatment plant will allow the current water conservation measures to be reviewed, it is anticipated that the community will likely maintain the water conservation measures to support the broader environmentally responsible use of water resources in the region."

The government spokeswoman said continuing restrictions:

  • would ensure the new treatment plant can accommodate future growth in the town
  • provide added redundancy to water supply security
  • deliver environmental benefits associated with a reduced demand from the aquifer.

Katherine Times has been pressing the government for an answer on restrictions as residents continue to struggle during the current heatwave.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles flew to Katherine in 2017 to announce the emergency water restrictions to fget the town through its drinking water crisis.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles flew to Katherine in 2017 to announce the emergency water restrictions to fget the town through its drinking water crisis.

Power and Water is also stretched to maintain guaranteed safe drinking water supplies with the expected spike in water use.

Power and Water can only remove PFAS chemicals from a small portion of their water supplies, relying more heavily as it does during the build up months on contaminated bore supplies.

Work has started on a larger water treatment plant for Katherine, paid for by the Defence Department, but it is not now expected to be operational until next year.

The water restrictions were introduced by Health Minister Natasha Fyles in Katherine in August 2017 as a "temporary measure", it was said at the time.

Katherine is believed to still be the only town in Australia on water restrictions because of PFAS contamination.

The new plant, capable of removing PFAS from all of the town's drinking water, is being paid for by Defence as the contamination is still leaking from the Tindal RAAF Base.

Meanwhile, a resident has also pointed Katherine Times to a website operated by the Bureau of Meteorology which outlines water restrictions across the country.

"There are currently no water restrictions in place in the Northern Territory," the website incorrectly states.

This story Water restrictions may be a permanent way of life for Katherine first appeared on Katherine Times.