Legal Access to Sewage and the 'Re-Invention' of Wastewater
(2008) 12 (2) The Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy 115
Posted: 1 Dec 2014
Date Written: 2008
As demand outstrips supply in the water sector the pressure to enhance existing sources of potable and non potable water increases. Perhaps one unexpected outcome of that pressure has been to see some old 'problems' through a new, more optimistic lens. Accordingly, sewage which was once seen as a 'burden' is now being re-invented as a valuable resource for sewer miners and those in the water recycling industry. The opportunities provided by this re-imagining could be seized by the public utilities themselves who have traditionally been responsible for sewage removal and treatment. They could, for example, embark on large scale sewage recycling operations but, given that many are already cash-strapped, this seems unlikely. Another possibility is for 'third party' operators, especially from the private sector, to access the sewerage networks, remove the sewage, treat it and supply the recycled water.
Removal of sewage from the network invites a raft of questions as to how access can be provided so as to maintain consumer protections as well as health and environmental safeguards. It also raises concerns about who 'owns' the sewage in the first place and whether third party access and a market based approach would ultimately help alleviate pressure on existing supplies of water. To some extent, the answers to these questions lie in the ambit, scope and capacity of the legal frameworks and regulatory regimes that are enacted to facilitate private third party access to publicly owned sewerage infrastructure. This article explores those frameworks and regimes and poses new questions about their scope.
Note: For copyright reasons, only the abstract is available here.
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