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The 1998 Sydney Water Crisis (A) 2005-22.1

22 February 2005



On 21 July 1998, the Sydney Water Corporation learnt that routine samples collected from the Prospect Water Filtration Plant and Potts Hill Reservoir contained low-levels of Cryptosporidium and Giardia contamination. Sydney Water began investigating the incident immediately, in consultation with the New South Wales Health Department. Over the next few days, further testing revealed that several central city areas were also affected, and by Saturday 25 July, some very high readings had been recorded. Although Sydney Water believed that the situation was probably the result of cleansing the system, it was still unable to identify the exact cause or extent of the problem. That evening, Sydney Water Managing Director Chris Pollett was informed of the situation. The following day further high readings were obtained. The next morning he was due to attend his regular monthly briefing with Sydney Water Chair and their Operating Licence Minister, both of whom were unaware of what had transpired. Pollett had to decide what, if anything, to tell his superiors and how to manage the situation.

The principal theme of this case study is crisis management. It focusses on two difficult decisions which key decision-makers had to make, where there were many uncertainties and management of the crisis was hampered by conflict. Part A describes the problem as it evolved before a decision had to be made about how to inform the public.

Authors: Marinella Padula
Published Date: 22 February 2005
Author Institution: ANZSOG, University of Sydney
Featured Content Length: 5
Content Length: 9
Product Type: Case with teaching note, Part A, Primary resources