Publication Details

Hurlimann, A. & Dolnicar, S. (2010). When Public Opposition Defeats Alternative Water Projects - the Case of Toowoomba Australia. Water Research, 44 (1), 287-297.


Located approximately 100km west of Brisbane, Toowoomba is home to approximately 95,000 people. Surface water from dams is the main source of water for the city. In 2006 the residents of Toowoomba were invited to vote in a referendum (plebiscite) concerning whether or not an indirect potable wastewater reuse scheme should be constructed to supply additional water to the area. At that stage dam levels in Toowoomba were at approximately twenty per cent of capacity. Toowoomba residents, after intense campaigning on both sides of the referendum debate, voted against the proposal. In July 2008 dam levels dropped to eleven per cent. Stage 5 water restrictions have been in place since September 2006, subsequently mains water must not be used for any outdoor uses. This paper describes in detail how public opposition in the case of Toowoomba’s referendum, defeated the proposal for a water augmentation solution. Reasons for the failure are analysed. In so doing, the paper provides valuable insights with respect to public participation in indirect potable reuse proposals, and discusses factors including politics, vested interest and information manipulation. This paper is significant because of the lack of detailed information published about failed water infrastructure projects.



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