The research is clear. Unfluoridated drinking water is a public health risk. Lack of fluoride significantly increases tooth decay – particularly in children.

But water supply in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs is not fluoridated. This means the local area is now in the 10 percent of the Victorian population not to have fluoride.

Water fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride in drinking water to a level that helps protect teeth against decay. Fluoride often occurs naturally in ground water. Adding fluoride does not alter the taste or smell of water.

Fluoridation is safe and has been endorsed by health and dental organisations worldwide. It significantly reduces tooth decay – by up to 60 percent in children. The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention identified drinking water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th Century.

The local water supply is the responsibility of Central Highlands Water. The source water comes mainly from the  Hepburn, Daylesford and Bullarto reservoirs.

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The water is treated at the Daylesford Water Treatment Plant on Wombat Hill where sediments are removed and the water is disinfected with chlorine for safe consumption. It is then pumped to the reservoirs at the top of the Botanic Garden and gravity fed to local residents and businesses.

Responsibility for introducing fluoride to the local water supply rests with the Secretary for the Victorian Department of Health. The Secretary can require Central Highlands Water to add fluoride to the local water supply.

Following a direction from the Department of Health, responsibility for planning and implementing the decision to introduce fluoride sits with Central Highlands Water.

The quantity of fluoride added to drinking water supplies is controlled according to standards set by the Victorian Department of Health and is carefully controlled at the water treatment plant to ensure it remains within the limits set.

Funding and prioritising the introduction of fluoride for local areas sits with the Department of Health.

When asked why fluoride has not been introduced for Daylesford, the local member for Macedon, Mary-Anne Thomas, who is also the Minister for Health said,

“We know how important good oral care is to our overall health – that’s why we are currently implementing our Victorian Action Plan to Prevent Oral Disease to increase access to water fluoridation in regional communities, including Daylesford by 2030.”

 “While this work is underway, we are ensuring the community has access to critical oral health programs such as the Smiles 4 Miles program, SmileSquad and free public dental care for eligible community members, including children, at Central Highlands Rural Health.”

Water fluoridation has been practised in Australia since 1953. It was introduced to the Ballarat and District water supply system in 2009 and Maryborough and District system in 2015 under the direction of the Department.

The cost of introducing fluoride to the local water supply are relatively small compared with the significant health benefits that come with fluoridation.

It is unclear why the Victorian Government has not introduced fluoride to Daylesford. Nor is it clear if and when it will happen.