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Towoomba residents say no to recycled waste water
Residents of drought-stricken Toowoomba have convincingly rejected the notion of drinking their own waste water.
In a controversial referendum today, the result of which was decided by 8pm (AEST), 61.62 per cent of residents opposed the treating of sewage for drinking water in the inland south-east Queensland city.
A total of 60,231 people were eligible to vote on the referendum.
The outcome was a resounding victory for the no campaign, which was headed by Rosemary Morley, coordinator of a group calling itself Citizens Against Drinking Sewage.
Ms Morley had insisted Toowoomba would not be a guinea pig for the rest of Australia in adopting the controversial plan.
Yes campaigners included Toowoomba Mayor Di Thorley, who had said recycling sewage for drinking water was the most economically and environmentally effective way to fix the city's critical water shortage.
Earlier today, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said regardless of the referendum outcome, other parched south-east Queensland communities would likely have to vote on the same issue in the future.
"What happens in Toowoomba will have an influence on the time line for which south-east Queensland votes on this," Mr Beattie said.
The premier said if the vote was negative "then we will have to go out and explain the truth about recycling".
The federal parliamentary secretary for water Malcolm Turnbull said he respected the decision.
He said the use of recycled water for drinking purposes in the manner proposed is "sustainable and it is safe," he said in a statement.
"But, as I have said many times, it is not compulsory."
He said recycling water was important for Australia as demand was expected to exceed supply from existing water sources in nearly all major Australian cities within the next 20 years.
"As our states and territories address water shortage issues, a number of options including recycled water, stormwater, and desalination should be considered," Mr Turnbull said.