More than half a million Australians in at least 400 remote or regional communities lack access to quality drinking water.
An estimated 408 rural locations with a combined population of 627,736 people failed to measure up to health-based guidelines in 2018-2019, according to researchers at the Australian National University.
The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines’ aesthetic determinants of good water quality across taste, colour and odour were used.
Researchers reviewed public reporting by 177 water utilities to measure potential gaps in drinking water quality in regional and remote areas.
About two million people are not included in this reporting, as national water quality statistics only include those service providers with at least 10,000 connections.
Additionally, 40 per cent of locations with reported health-based non-compliances were remote Indigenous communities.
Lead researcher Dr Paul Wyrwoll called for greater transparency in Australia’s national reporting of drinking water quality.
“Our national statistics misrepresent the challenges facing households and water service providers across regional and remote Australia,” he said.
It comes amid growing concerns about safe access to clean drinking water in remote Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory.
A 2020 Power and Water report found water in the remote Aboriginal community Laramba was contaminated with 0.052 milligrams per litre of uranium, which is more than three times the recommended limit under national drinking water guidelines.
Dr Wyrwoll has pushed for a national drinking water database to ensure the public is better informed.