Calls to fix 'putrid' problem affecting 'whole series of Aussie towns'

Experts say more needs to be done to help the 'struggling' residents of Aussie towns putting up with sub-standard water.

Spending thousands of dollars a year on bottled water is the norm for residents in a small Aussie town who say they're unable to drink straight from the tap because of the poor water quality.

Brown, foul-smelling water pours from the taps inside homes in Yass, NSW and residents are calling on the government to help fix the "putrid" problem.

Living in the southwest town for five years, Gail Reid says the water "most times is undrinkable" and as a result, she spends between $40 and $50 a week on bottled water to drink, and to use for cooking.

Bathtub with kids toys filled with brown water (left) plastic water bottle filled with brown tap water (right)
Residents living in Yass, a town in southern NSW, is experiencing brown, foul-smelling tap water. Source: Gail Reid

"It has a rotten smell to it, and on a bad day if you do washing, white clothes will come out brown," she told Yahoo News Australia.

"I know a person who had to replace his hot water system twice in the last two and a half years because of the water issue. It is putrid, the colour of it, the smell is like rotten socks".

Council claims 'water is safe to drink'

A study conducted by Yass Valley Council found 85 per cent of survey respondents in the area did not drink tap water, ABC reported. However, according to the council's website, the water is safe to drink.

"[The water] is affected by water hardness, dissolved solids, high organic matter, iron and manganese; causing the varying taste and colour long experienced by local residents," Yass Valley Council's website says. "Council recognises that the potability of Yass water is an issue for local residents." Yahoo News has approached the council to discuss the town's water quality.

Hundreds of regional towns have poor water quality

According to water researcher Professor Ian Wright, it's not just Yass, but "a whole series of regional towns". A study by the Australian National University (ANU) found more than 400 regional and remote communities did not have access to good-quality drinking water across the country.

Brown tap water filling sink (left) glass filled with brown tap water (right)
The tap water varies in colour and taste leaving most residents no choice but to buy bottled water. Source: Gail Reid

"You do not have problems like this in the capital cities of Australia," Wright told Yahoo News. "This is yet another example of sub-standard water that people in regional NSW endure."

"When I go to a country town and have a shower, I can smell this wave of chlorine hits me and I realise, okay, if you can smell the chlorine, it's good because it's disinfecting the water. But it's also an indication of the more chlorine, the worse the water," he added.

'Health concerns' for young children

The discolouration of the water found in Yass is a clear indication of how bad the water is, he said. Photos supplied to Yahoo by Yass resident Reid show the extent of the problem they're facing.

Parents are forced to bathe their kids in dirty bathwater, and water bottles and buckets are a deep shade of brown.

"My concerns are for young children and what effects it will have on their health in years to come," Reid said.

White washing turned brown hanging on line.
The dirty water is causing white washing to turn brown. Source: Gail Reid

Residents launch petition for safer drinking water

In a petition started by Reid, residents are calling for the treatment plant to be replaced which would in turn help with better quality water. The first water treatment facility was constructed in 1938 and was last upgraded in 1990.

Dr Wright said "it's "easy to fix any water quality problem" in any regional town, but they desperately need government funding and support.

"They're just struggling. They're struggling and they need help," he said. "The engineering, the expertise, the technology is there, it's money and it's support".

Previously, Taya Biggs of Menindee, Far West NSW, complained of “disgusting water” in her town and a resident in Dubbo also complained of dirty water.

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