It should come as no surprise that residents will foot the bill for the massive statewide water infrastructure upgrade announced by the State Government yesterday.
Such major capital investment comes with a hefty cost and all must share the burden.
For Geelong, it means our water supply will be guaranteed in the future via a $80m pipeline connecting us to Melbourne’s water supply, which will in turn be topped up by a new desalination plant located in Wonthaggi.
For Geelong residents, it will mean the cost of water supplied by Barwon Water will likely double over the next four years.
Given that most responsible residents have employed new, sustainable water conservation practices in recent months and have adjusted to severe drought conditions, it is unlikely there will be much outcry about the increased water bills.
In fact the drought has made many realise just how valuable a resource our water is – and many might now agree that if anything it has been underpriced in the past.
Most bill payers should be strongly encouraged to look towards further conservation rather than fret too much about the increased cost of what we once wrongly thought was an inexhaustible resource.
Rather, more controversy is likely to surround the fact that fluoride will now be part of Geelong’s water supply for the first time.
Melbourne’s water supply is fluoridated and has been for more than 25 years, but Geelong’s fluoridation plant was never commissioned after union member refused to pull the switch.
Once the pipe between the two cities is completed some of that fluoride, in a diluted form, will filter through to Geelong.
It is not the same as fluoridating Geelong’s water supply but it is not far from it.
At the very least, it certainly opens the opportunity for future full fluoridation in Geelong.
The arguments for and against fluoridation have been played out ad nauseum over the years with clear and reasonable arguments on both sides (along with the unavoidable hyperbole and scare campaigns).
Now, though, is the time for the anti-fluoride lobby to accept that these watered-down levels of fluoride in our water will exist and will continue into the future.
For many people it’s not an ideal situation but it has to be far better than the possible alternative of the region running dry.
We’d much rather have a long-term guaranteed water supply with some fluoride rather than continued uncertainty over the sustainability of a fully non-fluoridated supply.