Archive for July 2011
The Hendra virus was a major topic of discussion in the national media this week with some reports broaching the question “Can Hendra virus exist in water tanks?” due to rainwater catchments being contaminated with bat and flying fox droppings.
One program on Brisbane ABC radio (ABC 612 Mornings 28/7/11) interviewed a tank cleaning company representative and sought a range of views from tank owners on this topic. While drawing no conclusions about the virus itself in relation to tank water, the suggestion of possible association has the potential to instill an element of doubt and fear.
Quite often, the initial alarming story-line is all the general public will ‘hear’. There is no current evidence of the Hendra virus being found in rainwater tanks or even that the disease can be transmitted via water. So far, this is a precautionary query only because so little is really known about this rare and deadly disease. To keep this issue in perspective, a few points must be considered:
- Health authorities admit that they do not fully understand the Hendra virus or its transmission but it is thought that the disease is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact. Further research is ongoing.
- Some areas of government have already considered and investigated this possibility in rural areas. Rockhampton Regional Council has published a document addressing the issues of flying foxes and rainwater tanks and is available via the Council’s website. See http://www.rockhamptonregion.qld.gov.au/Council_Services/Animal_Management The Council makes recommendations to keep rainwater safe for drinking including regular tank maintenance and water treatment.
- Rainwater has been and will continue to be the sole source of household water supply for countless people in areas where there is no reticulated water supply. Proper management of rainwater harvesting systems ensures a safe and sustainable water supply.
While it is vital to investigate and assess any possible health risk in relation to all water supplies, it is equally important to ensure that any misinformation is addressed and that we don’t allow unfounded fears to detract from the important contribution rainwater harvesting makes to environmental sustainability.
Note: Water Tactics do not recommend drinking tank water in areas where a potable water supply is available. Tank water used for drinking should be adequately treated and/or filtered to remove any potential contaminants.