Potable Water

Potable water is water of a quality considered by the government to be suitable for drinking, cooking and personal bathing.  The standards that define potable water in Australia are described in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The following is a link to the full Guidelines

Non-potable water is water that is not of the same quality as drinking but which may still be used for many other purposes depending on its quality.  Under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 non-potable water is a ‘substance’ for which manufacturers, suppliers and end users have risk management obligations.
The 2004 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), which are the most recent guidelines, were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in collaboration with the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC).  The ADWG incorporates the "Framework for the Management of Drinking Water Quality" and provides the Australian community and the water supply industry with guidance on what constitutes good quality drinking water.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines states “…drinking water should be safe to drink for people in most stages of normal life, including children over six months of age and the very old. It should contain no harmful concentrations of chemicals or pathogenic micro-organisms, and ideally it should be aesthetically pleasing in regard to appearance, taste and odour. ”. and that drinking water is water “… that, based on current knowledge, is safe to drink over a lifetime; that is, it constitutes no significant risk to health.”  If the water meets these criteria it can be called potable water.

Figure 1: Potable Water (Source: Gosford City Council)

Internationally, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) publication called ‘Guidelines for drinking-water quality’ is the key reference to drinking water.  These guidelines can be found at:

Drinking water guidelines specific for Australian conditions have been available since 1972.   These Australian drinking water guidelines have always been based on the latest available version of the WHO guidelines but have also been adapted to take into account local circumstances and conditions that are unique to Australia.  In 1987, the publication Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality in Australia was released and then in 1996, Australian Drinking Water Guidelines was published jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ). The Guidelines were reviewed and updated again in 2004 as discussed above.  The guidelines provide guidance to the Australian water industry on the treatment levels and procedures needed to manage water supply systems that are required to produce safe and pleasant looking and tasting potable (drinking) water.