Melbourne, and much of Australia, has experienced serious to critical water shortages in its recent history. Most states experienced water restrictions in the past five years ranging from stage one up to a critical stage 7 in some parts of Queensland. Melbourne has experienced water limitations starting with stage 1 from 28 August 2006, to a high of Stage 3a from 1 April 2007 to April 2010. As of December 1st, 2012 Melbourne replaced water restrictions with a short list of permanent water saving measures. Over the three years of the strictest restrictions Melbournians managed to comply with personal usage of 155 litres per day after water storages hit a low of 28%. It was a hot topic and it was promoted as everyone’s social responsibility to comply to save ourselves and others within society from running dry.
The typical Melbournian installed a water tank, replaced water thirsty plants with drought tolerant ones, and many replaced grass with other water saving options. All of our showers had two minute timers, our toilets and showers were installed with water restricting devices, we washed our cars in commercial outlets that recycled and guess what – everyone coped very well. So what happened to people’s conscience?
Within 3 months of the restrictions being lifted the average daily water consumption per person rocketed to 250 litres. As the world’s population grows there will be a huge demand for fresh water. Currently a large portion of the world’s population does not have access to sanitised water so how will we cope when the demand is even greater? Will government impose further restrictions or will the answer be desalination plants or simply to recycle the water we use. Currently there is much technology that allows Australians to use recycled water for non-potable for things such as gardening, toilet flushing as well as many commercial uses and this is widely accepted by Australians. Recycling water for drinking is a different story as far as social acceptance – would you drink recycled water?