Community management of onsite wastewater treatment systems- what they want in Mount Gambier, South Australia
Effective management of onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) is important in preventing contamination of ecologically sensitive receiving environments, such as surface water and groundwater used for human consumption or contact. Householders play a key role in OWTS management, therefore inadequate householder knowledge of system function, inability to recognise signs of system failures and lack of understanding of maintenance requirements can increase the risk of system failure. A householder survey and community consultation process have been undertaken in conjunction with a biophysical effluent sampling program to reveal community understanding of OWTS, opinions on preferred management strategies, institutional arrangements and possible reactions to future financial costs to householders. Opinions from workshop participants and other stakeholders suggested their community wanted knowledge regarding OWTS functioning and maintenance, in particular, information on the use of suitable household chemicals to maintain treatment performance and continued research into contamination of groundwater sources by wastewater systems to better inform wastewater management strategies. Community participants were divided on the preferred administration and cost of maintenance, with some wanting to retain responsibility for maintenance arrangements by contracting specialised personnel and others suggesting local authorities should take responsibility.