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Monday, June 15, 2009

2020 Sustainability submission 856 (Roy Rodgers)



find isolated areas around the country, in this areas we would put our human waste straight into a deep bore hole. The theory is that the waste will move its way back into our water streams with the distance from the waste station to the natural water systems used to filter the water.

Wrap up

This submission belongs in the hey lets create an inland sea category; however it has a wicked little twist that makes it worthy of comment. The idea is short, succinct straight to the point. Basically 856 is proposing that we dig big holes in the desert and fill them up with poo.

Why you may ask? 856 (he/she, although to be honest my money is on 856 being male) provides the following justification. The idea is that we create massive pits of raw sewerage in central region of Australia. This sewerage would then filter through the indices of rock and soil, depositing little bits of poo as it goes, and hopefully by the time it encounters a water source, whether it be an aquifer or a river, it will be pristine and pure. Otherwise, there are going to be quite a few rural Australians complaining about the taste of their water and the discoloration it leaves on the washing

Of course there are a couple of minor issues with poisoning vast tracts of remote Australia. Any proper assessment must consider both the benefits and costs. Lets start with the benefits.

For starters percolating through indices of rock and soil is probably not the speediest way to treat sewage. As a method for generating additional sources of water its best suited to those that are prepared to wait a couple of thousand years. It is definitely not going to satisfy the needs of drought effected urban populations. Given that actual supply augmentation may not be a big bonus we have to extend our analysis to consider social and environmental benefits. It is obviously a big plus for anyone who enjoys poo skiing or poo sailing (depending on the size of the hole), although measuring the value of this benefit may be a challenge in and of itself. Another external benefit would be the possible food source it would create for any native animal with the gastronomical dexterity to deal with human waste.

What will it cost? In the absence of any robust analysis we can generate some indicative numbers. A recent estimation of the Melbourne to Gippsland pipe line for recycled water is approximately $2 billion. Given that this pipeline covers a relatively small area, is designed to transport water (which by its very nature is less bulky than sewage), and is able to use gravity and thus requires less pumping, we can safely say that creating a national network of infrastructure that moves sewage from the major urban centers (being at sea level) to massive inland pits (don’t forget the pits, we need some holes and they need to be quite large … actually they are going to be so big that they’ll constitute inland seas of poo) is going to cost in pure economic terms a SHIT load. And that is before we actually factor in external costs such as the anticipated obesity epidemic in desert dwelling goannas.

The back of the envelope

  • Cost: $shit load
  • Expected impact on average earnings: Hello poverty
  • Expected impact on economic growth: Australia to become the very first developed economy to regress to a level of economic activity that matchs that of pre-settlement
  • Impact on incentives: If the full cost is passed through to consumers in their water and sewerage charges there is a strong incentive to cease defecating
  • Impact on government spending: $shit load
  • Winners: Poo skiers and hungry goannas
  • Lossers: Australia and diabetic goannas


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