THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WATER RESTRICTIONS

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?

recycled water

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Posted in climate change, community, water
3 comments on “THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WATER RESTRICTIONS
  1. jeremy says:

    Have you come across NEWater in Singapore? People have been drinking recycled water in this country for years now with no ill effects. Australians are more sceptical it would seem.

  2. atomitak says:

    Very interesting idea. In Canada there are companies investing in Reverse Osmosis technologies (water purification). Canadian Forces are using wastewater treatment solutions for humanitarian efforts… though I’m not sure if this involves drinking the recycled water.

  3. rohennayoung says:

    Looking at Singapore’s Award winning water management program shows that a combined approach can certainly solve many of the sustainable water issues that are facing many countries. The “Four National Taps” approach by the Public Utility Board (PUB) of Singapore meets water demand in the following ways:

    1. Local Catchments that are located in a legislative protected area of land in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve – accounts for 20% of current supply.

    2. Imported Water is brought in from Malaysia via a pipeline. There is an agreement of this supply until 2061 whereby Singapore is aiming to be able to be self sufficient – currently account for 40% of supply

    3. New Water (Reclaimed) is drawn from the storm water drains and treated via micro-filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet technologies to deliver water quality that is above the WHO standard for drinking water – currently account for 30% of water supply

    4. Desalinated Water as it states is water drawn from the sea, treated and converted to water that is available for both commercial and personal use – accounts for 10% of the current water supply.

    The multi-pronged approach is a forward thinking approach that spreads the sustainability across different methods. The long term planning is impressive and looks like it will secure the way forward for Singapore. More countries should take a look at this approach and start implementing a strong strategy such as this to assure future supply.

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