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Has the decade-long Big Dry changed the way Australians view water consumption for good?
During the drought, national and state governments launched a suite of initiatives to promote long-term improvements in water efficiency, and accelerate the uptake of water-saving technologies and practices. Australia is one of the world’s biggest consumers of water: prior to the drought Australians were using an average of more than 300 litres per day. But with rising rates, restrictions on outdoor use, widespread adoption of water-saving devices, and campaigns to modify behaviour, average use has dropped by more than one-third.
In southeast Queensland, local government and utilities worked together to reduce water use among 80,000 “high volume” households – those using 800 or more litres per person per day. They conducted behavioural surveys and worked one-on-one to find ways to make savings, such as installing rain capture bins and switching to low-irrigation lawn covers. After the programme, 45% of households were deemed efficient, with daily usage reduced to 145 litres per person.
The Water Corporation of Western Australia’s H2ome scheme enlisted households in a 12-month programme involving personal coaching on efficient use and regular meter readings to keep households on track, and successfully lowered usage by 17-19%.
“Australia has gone beyond behaviour change,” says Andrew Tucker, who before becoming the Water Strategy Manager for the UK Energy Saving Trust, served as an environmental advisor in Australia. “There is now a cultural shift in the way people use and view water resources. Having gone through such extreme drought, people aren’t going back to wasteful practices.” – Katherine Rowland
Photo: Martin Gabriel/ Nature Picture Library