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10 March 2010
Farmers are leading the way in water conservation, a study into the water use habits of south-west Victorians has found.
Deakin University Warrnambool Campus researcher Dr Michelle Graymore said the farmers involved in the study were well aware of the need to conserve water and had adopted good habits on their properties.
Dr Graymore, in conjunction with Wannon Water, completed a pilot behaviour change program in October last year that tested prompt labels, a daily water use diary and other methods to encourage people to reduce water use.
While the study found that the program helped almost half of the town residents who participated to reduce their use by 49 per cent by the third week of the program, farm water use remained relatively static.
But Dr Graymore said this reflected the good work already being done by farmers.
“Based on the farmers involved in this study, they have already implemented most water saving techniques that they could be using,” she said.
“It is very positive to see the extent farmers and hobby farmers in our region have adopted water saving measures.”
Dr Graymore said farmers in the program were largely inspired to conserve water for cost savings and because of the impact drought has had over the past 10 years. Some of the farmers were also concerned about the impact of climate change on their farm.
A survey done before the pilot program found farmers were more inclined to save water for financial reasons to keep their farm going compared to town residents who wanted to conserve water for altruistic motives.
However, farmers were also concerned about future water supplies. “They are looking at more dams and tanks to ensure they have sufficient supplies in the future,” Dr Graymore said. “Farmers are well aware of the importance of protecting their water supply. One farmer summed up the situation nicely saying ‘water is important to our business, if we don’t have water we don’t have milk’.
“It is in the best interests of farmers to make sure they have a secure water supply and that they are not wasting any of the resource,” Dr Graymore said. “As we discovered during the program from one farmer’s water use, cows drink an average of 100 litres of water a day on a 20°C day, but according to other participants this can go up to 400 litres a day when it’s really hot. Considering the average dairy farm in the south-west has about 380 cattle, that is up to 152,000 litres a day just to keep the cows watered,” she added.
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