2016/20: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Naegleria Fowleri, Chloride, Sodium, Sulphate, Temperature, Total Dissolved Solids

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Oodnadatta residents “suffering” from poor water quality: Aboriginal Health Council

March 6 2020 (Indaily)

Residents of the outback town of Oodnadatta are “suffering in conditions that we wouldn’t expect anyone in our community to live with day to day” due to their poor water quality, the state’s peak Aboriginal health group says.

The Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA) claims both the State and Federal Governments have been made aware of reports into the “poor water quality” and “unsatisfactory availability” of drinking water in Oodnadatta in the state’s far north since 2006, but no action has been taken.

SA Water has warned Oodnadatta residents not to drink the bore water it supplies to houses as it may contain the parasite naegleria fowleri which, when inhaled, causes a rare but almost always fatal brain infection.

The SA Housing Authority has also warned Oodnadatta residents against drinking what it calls “undrinkable” and “unfiltered” rainwater, as the tanks provided at its leased properties are not intended to supply drinking water.

The situation leaves Oodnadatta residents to choose between drinking the questionable bore or rainwater, buying expensive bottled water, or taking containers to a clean water outlet set up in the town’s main street, which the State Government says is mainly for passing tourists and which costs $4 for 20 litres.

InDaily reported yesterday that the State Government had convened a cross-government working group to examine water supply issues facing remote communities.

That group currently comprises government agencies and departments, but AHCSA CEO Nahtanha Davey has asked to have her organisation also included as “it is important that the particular water needs of Aboriginal communities, and particularly remote communities, is given the consideration they deserve”.

She said AHCSA was “morally bound to advocate on such an important matter” and that while the “remoteness of Oodnadatta may make it easy to overlook, people there are suffering in conditions that we wouldn’t expect anyone in our community to live with day to day”.

“The availability of safe drinking water in remote communities is not a new issue, Davey said.

“As far back as 2006 reports have been made of the poor water quality and the unsatisfactory availability of an alternative option for the Oodnadatta community, but to no avail.

“Aboriginal people have (a) right to affordable clean water, in sufficient quantity to meet daily needs – which is likely to be increasing with climate changes and higher temperatures – and of a quality which does not add to the health burden.”

InDaily contacted the State Government for comment but is yet to receive a response.

SA Water has prioritised Oodnadatta as the first of 19 communities without clean drinking water across the state to receive upgraded treatment infrastructure in its 2020-2024 regulatory plan.

The agency said  its customers – not the State Government – were happy to pay extra to fund the work if it received the go-ahead from ESCOSA.

But the Essential Services Commission of SA (ESCOSA) rejected the proposal – estimated to cost up to $200 million – as a “partial solution that provides limited incremental benefits to a small number of customers at a very high cost” in its draft determination handed down on Wednesday.

Davey said AHCSA supported SA Water’s proposal, despite it being “certainly not cheap”.

“In difficult economic conditions it is understandable why some stakeholders are keen to see a greater return to the consumer rather than having consumers cross-subsidise a remote community,” she said.

“Access to clean water, however, is a fundamental and important right.

“If the proposal by SA Water to fund the rectification works for Oodnadatta through customer contributions is rejected, the matter cannot simply be passed on or set aside.

“We are calling on the Government to commit to fund the rectification work if ESCOSA does not allow it to be funded through consumer contributions.”

Treasurer Rob Lucas said earlier this week that the Government “would have to consider” whether it would be open to funding water treatment infrastructure for remote towns once ESCOSA handed down its final determination in May.

Oodnadatta – South Australia – Chloride

August 2016: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Chloride 657mg/L


Based on aesthetic considerations, the chloride concentration in drinking water should not
exceed 250 mg/L.

Chloride is present in natural waters from the dissolution of salt deposits, and contamination from effluent disposal.

Sodium chloride is widely used in the production of industrial chemicals such as caustic soda, chlorine, and sodium chlorite and hypochlorite. Potassium chloride is used in the production of fertilisers.

The taste threshold of chloride in water is dependent on the associated cation but is in the range 200–300 mg/L. The chloride content of water can affect corrosion of pipes and fittings. It can also affect the solubility of metal ions.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

Oodnadatta – South Australia – Sodium

March 2017: Maree (South Australia) – Sodium 549mg/L



“Based on aesthetic considerations (taste), the concentration of sodium in drinking water
should not exceed 180 mg/L.

No health-based guideline value is proposed for sodium. Medical practitioners treating
people with severe hypertension or congestive heart failure should be aware if the sodium
concentration in the patient’s drinking water exceeds 20 mg/L.”

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

Oodnadatta – South Australia – Sulphate


August 2016: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Sulphate 336mg/L

Based on aesthetic considerations (taste), the concentration of sulfate in drinking water
should not exceed 250 mg/L. Purgative effects may occur if the concentration exceeds 500 mg/L.

Sulfate occurs naturally in a number of minerals, and is used commercially in the manufacture of numerous products including chemicals, dyes, glass, paper, soaps, textiles, fungicides and insecticides. Sulfate, including sulfuric acid, is also used in mining, pulping, and the metal and plating industries. Barium sulfate is used as a lubricant in drilling rigs for groundwater supply.
In the water industry, aluminium sulfate (alum) is used as a flocculant in water treatment, and copper sulfate is used for the control of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in water storages…

The taste threshold for sulfate is in the range 250–500 mg/L. Under anoxic conditions, the reduction of sulfate to sulfide by sulfate-reducing bacteria can result in unpleasant taste and odour due to the release of hydrogen sulfide, and can increase corrosion in pipes.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

Oodnadatta – South Australia – Temperature


August 15 2016: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Temperature 22C

November 21 2016: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Temperature 38C

February 20 2017: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Temperature 36C

May 22 2017: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Temperature 25C


“No guideline is set due to the impracticality of controlling water temperature.
Drinking water temperatures above 20°C may result in an increase in the number of

Temperature is primarily an aesthetic criterion for drinking water. Generally, cool water is more palatable than warm or cold water. In general, consumers will react to a change in water temperature. Complaints are most frequent when the temperature suddenly increases.

The turbidity and colour of filtered water may be indirectly affected by temperature, as low water temperatures tend to decrease the efficiency of water treatment processes by, for instance, affecting floc formation rates and sedimentation efficiency.

Chemical reaction rates increase with temperature, and this can lead to greater corrosion of pipes and fittings in closed systems. Scale formation in hard waters will also be greater at higher temperatures…

Water temperatures in major Australian reticulated supplies range from 10°C to 30°C. In some long, above-ground pipelines, water temperatures up to 45°C may be experienced…

The effectiveness of chlorine as a disinfectant is influenced by the temperature of the water being dosed. Generally higher temperatures result in more effective disinfection at a particular chlorine dose, but this may be counterbalanced by a more rapid loss of chlorine to the atmosphere (AWWA 1990).

Chlorine reacts with organic matter in water to produce undesirable chlorinated organic by-products, and higher temperatures increase the rate of these reactions.

Temperature can directly affect the growth and survival of microorganisms. In general the survival time of infectious bacteria and parasites is reduced as the temperature of the contaminated water increases.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011

Oodnadatta – South Australia – Total Dissolved Solids


August 15 2016: Oodnadatta (South Australia) – Total Dissolved Solids (by EC) 1600mg/L


“No specific health guideline value is provided for total dissolved solids (TDS), as there are no
health effects directly attributable to TDS. However for good palatability total dissolved solids
in drinking water should not exceed 600 mg/L.

Total dissolved solids (TDS) consist of inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water. Clay particles, colloidal iron and manganese oxides and silica, fine enough to pass through a 0.45 micron filter membrane can also contribute to total dissolved solids.

Total dissolved solids comprise: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfate, bicarbonate, carbonate, silica, organic matter, fluoride, iron, manganese, nitrate, nitrite and phosphates…”

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011