IWA Publishing

Perceived agricultural runoff impact on drinking water

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Courtesy of Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Agricultural runoff into surface water is a problem in Australia, as it is in arguably all agriculturally active countries. While farm practices and resource management measures are employed to reduce downstream effects, they are often either technically insufficient or practically unsustainable. Therefore, consumers may still be exposed to agrichemicals whenever they turn on the tap. For rural residents surrounded by agriculture, the link between agriculture and water quality is easy to make and thus informed decisions about water consumption are possible. Urban residents, however, are removed from agricultural activity and indeed drinking water sources. Urban and rural residents were interviewed to identify perceptions of agriculture's impact on drinking water. Rural residents thought agriculture could impact their water quality and, in many cases, actively avoided it, often preferring tank to surface water sources. Urban residents generally did not perceive agriculture to pose health risks to their drinking water. Although there are more agricultural contaminants recognised in the latest Australian Drinking Water Guidelines than previously, we argue this is insufficient to enhance consumer protection. Health authorities may better serve the public by improving their proactivity and providing communities and water utilities with the capacity to effectively monitor and address agricultural runoff.

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