Water use cut 47 per cent in pilot Deakin program

10 March 2010

Some south-west Victorian residents were able to cut their water use by 47 per cent after adopting water saving behaviours in a trial program.

The program instigated by Deakin University included a water use diary, water use audit and strategically-placed reminder notes.

The behaviour changes were made as part of a pilot program conducted by researcher Dr Michelle Graymore from Deakin University’s Warrnambool Campus in conjunction with Wannon Water.

Town residents cut their average water use compared to before the pilot program started by an average 13 per cent for the first three weeks of the pilot.

Almost a third of residents who were higher than average users adopted a range of water saving behaviours during the program helping them reduce their use by 47 per cent by week three to about 90 litres per person per day. Residents who were already low water users (using around 84 litres per person per day) before the program began were less likely to make further changes as they had already adopted a range of water saving measures. Similarly, farmers involved in the program didn’t experience much change to their water use but Dr Graymore said this was more a reflection of existing conservation strategies farmers had in place.

Nearly 50 volunteer participants from across south-west Victoria were involved in the study, along with a control group used to compare results. The study was part of a three-year Reshaping Water Saving Attitudes in south-west Victoria project.

The difference in water use seen between residents before the program appears to be linked to their past experience with water shortages, Dr Graymore said. “Residents who had lived in areas with water restrictions or on properties with rainwater tanks in areas of low rainfall were more likely to be using a range of water saving measures making them low water users while residents with no experience of water shortages were higher users because they weren’t using saving measures. For these residents the program encouraged them to save water by showing them how to do it, helping them reduce their water use.”

The majority of participants used more water in the fourth week of the trial which Dr Graymore said coincided with a heatwave. However, usage among trial participants increased by only 24 per cent compared to a 45 per cent rise among control group members. Those participants who took up more water saving measures continued to show reduced water use with an 8 per cent decline in water use in this week despite the heat.

Water use in the control group was higher than the participants throughout the study, but it was lower than the 2008/09 average water use for the first three weeks of the study.

Dr Graymore said participants in the pilot behaviour change program completed a water audit, a daily diary of their water use and had prompt labels placed at high usage locations such as showers, dishwashers, dairies and washing machines.

“Reminders like these can help people realise where they can make savings. For example, reducing your shower time by one minute per day will save 6000 litres a year. In fact, these reminders helped one resident reduce their water use by 400 litres per day from their average use last year.

“Higher water users are often surprised by how much water they use compared to others and if they have the details on how to change and the reminders in front of them they tend to be more inclined to make positive changes.”

Dr Graymore said the role of gardens was an important factor in the study. “The substantial increase in usage in the fourth week was largely due to keen gardeners watering their gardens."

Dr Graymore said she hoped to repeat the exercise in the future with more people in the region.

A series of recommendations to promote water conservation have been presented to Wannon Water from the findings of this study.

News facts
  • Water saving behaviours encouraged in trial program
  • In some cases water use reduced by 47 per cent
  • Reminders help people realise where they can make savings

Media contact

Vanessa Barber
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 1301; 0488 292 644

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26th March 2010