COVID-19 and our water supply

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This page provides information about coronavirus (COVID-19) in relation to drinking water and wastewater services.

Most of the information on this page comes from the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and the best available information from Water Research Australia and the World Health Organisation.

COVID-19 sewage surveillance program

Tweed Shire Council is playing its part in helping to combat the spread of COVID-19 by providing raw sewage samples to NSW Health for testing.

Council signed an agreement with NSW Health in July 2020 to participate in the surveillance project, with samples sent to Sydney Water’s laboratories for testing.

Typically testing is undertaken weekly, but at times frequency is increased on the request of NSW Health in response to higher risk periods.

Results of the testing program are published by NSW Health on the website and summarised in the weekly surveillance report. NSW Health may also issue media releases to ensure COVID-19 information is available to the community in a transparent and timely manner.

A comprehensive FAQ section on the Sewage Surveillance Program is published on the NSW Health website.

Can I catch COVID-19 from drinking water?

No.

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted by drinking water. The current evidence is that the COVID-19 virus is most likely transmitted from person-to-person by:

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face.

The Tweed's water is treated to a high quality to the standards of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. There is no evidence that drinking water is affected by COVID-19. There is no need to boil Council supplied water for drinking.

Is Tweed water safe for hand-washing?

Tap water is safe to use for handwashing. Washing hands with water and soap is recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Should I buy bottled water?

No, there is no need to buy bottled water for drinking. Safe, clean tap water will continue to be supplied.

There is no need to boil Council supplied water for drinking.

How is Council protecting the drinking water supply?

Our water treatment and disinfection facilities are designed to remove or inactivate the most resistant pathogens from the water supply. Existing treatment process are expected to be highly effective to inactivate the COVID-19 virus. There is almost no human contact in the process of treating water for drinking.

We have stringent hygiene measures in place at water treatment plants. We maintain a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) independently certified drinking water quality management system, covering the entire water supply system from catchment to taps.

Council is in contact with key government agencies to monitor and understand the health impact of COVID-19 as it develops and are well-connected nationally and internationally to stay updated on the latest information and evidence.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted by the sewerage system?

Current disinfection methods at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be sufficient to inactivate the COVID-19 virus.

We will continue to treat sewage to the relevant guidelines and standards to protect public health and the environment.

Best practices for protecting the occupational health of workers at wastewater treatment plants continue to be maintained.

If Council employees are quarantined at home, will service be maintained?

Yes, water and wastewater are essential services and we are well prepared to manage any impact of COVID-19.

We have enacted our emergency and business continuity plans and continue to update and adapt those plans in response to the latest available information.

Our water treatment plants are secure, have a high level of automation and require few staff to operate. Similarly our wastewater treatment plants have high levels of automation and require few staff. To mitigate any risks we are ensuring we have multiple staff members who are able to operate our water and wastewater treatment plants

Council is also establishing multiple teams to operate and maintain our water supply and wastewater networks. The teams will be available to respond to water breaks, sewer blockages and other maintenance issues as normal.

It is a Council priority to maintain water supply and sewerage services.

What you can and can't flush down the toilet

We are encouraging the community to help prevent sewer blockages and spills by avoiding flushing any toilet paper alternatives down the toilet.

With many people turning to tissues, wet wipes and even paper towel to use in the toilet, customers are reminded that these items simply aren’t flushable and can have serious consequences for the environment and community.

Only flush the four Ps; pee, poo, puke and toilet paper.

Tissues, wet wipes and hand towel are made from a robust weave, not designed to disintegrate easily. They combine with fats, oils and grease in the sewers and create massive fatbergs that block the network and cause spills.

Drinking water quality in Australia

Water utilities supply safe, high quality drinking water to cities and regions across Australia.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council provide approximately 100 rigorous guideline values for water utilities to follow. In the most recent National Performance Report for the Australian water industry, which assesses compliance against the Guidelines, or licence conditions imposed on utilities, compliance with water supply quality remained high.