Lucindale school wants rainwater back

LUCINDALE Area School staff and students have been restricted from accessing rainwater for drinking while they are on campus.

Taps were removed from all tanks about a month ago as part of the State Government's Safe Drinking Water Act 2011.

Public mains is now the only water that is allowed to be used for drinking, much to the dismay of most of the school community including Year 12 captains Tim Williams and Taylor Ferguson.

Along with the Student Representative Council, the pair are trying to fight the ban, which came into effect for all SA schools and preschools in March 2013.

"We have always been drinking rainwater," Mr Williams said.

"A lot of kids are not drinking because they don't want to drink the town water.

"They will bring a water bottle with rainwater from home at the start of the day and when that's gone they won't drink anymore.

"Parents are getting a bit worried, especially when it comes into the warmer weather."

Lucindale Area School captains Tim Williams (left) and Taylor Ferguson inspect one of the rainwater tanks which has had its tap removed, making drinking the water inaccessible.

Lucindale Area School captains Tim Williams (left) and Taylor Ferguson inspect one of the rainwater tanks which has had its tap removed, making drinking the water inaccessible.

The SRC has expressed its concerns to the governing council and are in the process of drafting a letter to Member for Mackillop Mitch Williams.

They have looked into using a UV filter to treat the rainwater which is permitted only if the mains water is outside established quality levels or cannot be connected.

"We have done a bit of research," Mr Williams said.

"We thought maybe we could put up signs which said 'drink at your own risk' but were told we weren't permitted to do that.

"If we were in a adult environment we could put up the signs but we're not allowed to because young children might not be able to read them and might not know what they're drinking."

The Safe Water Drinking Act 2011 was developed by the Department for Education and Child Development in consultation with the Department of Health and Ageing.

It is based on the fact that the microbiological quality of rainwater is not consistent and can not be treated or managed as well as mains water.

While it acknowledges that rainwater from well-maintained tanks is low risk for most people, children are considered vulnerable.

A department spokesperson told the Herald rainwater could still be used for other purposes such as watering gardens.

"We know many people enjoy the taste of rainwater over mains supply but schools have a duty of care to students and have to factor in risks such as the spread of e-coli and other bacteria," the spokesperson said.

"Our policy is that mains water should be used for drinking where it is available... many schools have installed filtration units and resources have been provided to the school to make such a purchase."

Some schools across SA have not been able to make the switch from rainwater to mains due to connection difficulties; however, the Government has committed funding to converting the taps or implementing filtration and monitoring. These include several in the local region - Frances Primary School, Michelle DeGaris Memorial Kindergarten, Naracoorte High School, Naracoorte North Kindergarten, Naracoorte Primary School, Naracoorte South Primary School and Padthaway Primary School.

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