City dwellers less serious about water

Friday, 11 January, 2008

Across Australia, the number of people in cities who think the water situation is ‘very serious’ has dropped by more than 7% in the last year, going from 44.1% in 2006 to 36.7% in 2007.

This result is one of the findings of the second annual Newspoll survey commissioned by the Smart Approved WaterMark, the national symbol for products and services which assist in saving water outdoors.

The CEO of the Smart Watermark, Julian Gray, said that the study showed that the combined drop of ‘serious’ and ‘very serious’ had been 9% from 84% to 75%, but there were variations in cities according to their local weather patterns.

“Importantly, the survey shows the challenges in keeping water conservation top of mind when it rains in the cities. There’s an ongoing need to promote the message that water conservation is not just about crisis management during drought times,” Gray said.

“We need to keep promoting the wider community benefits of water conservation and it is comforting to note that across major Australian cities there’s been an increase of 16.6% of people who feel that water restrictions are about right.”

In 2006, 53.7% thought water restrictions were about right — in 2007 it has risen to 70.3%.

The survey was conducted in November (during the federal election campaign) in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth using a sample of 700 people.

As could be expected, there were strong city variations in answers to some of the questions. In Brisbane, where the water situation is critical, there has been the strongest increase in the numbers of people using rainwater tanks, waterless car washes, greywater systems and wetting agents and mulches for gardens.

Accompanying that has been a recognition of the rebate schemes, with the number of people buying waterwise products with rebates more than doubling to 48% in Brisbane.

In Sydney — and the survey was before the latest downpours — there has been a significant relaxing in attitudes with those who think the water situation is ‘very serious’ dropping from just below 50% to 27%.

Other findings of the survey included:

  • There has been little change in the possible ways to reduce domestic water consumption with rebates, restrictions, education and technology all recognised as somewhat or very effective by the vast majority.
  • There has been a slight increase in the number of people accepting that pricing could be an effective demand management tool — from 53% to 57%.
  • Use of greywater is up 10% from 40% in 2006 to 51% with significant increases in Melbourne and Brisbane.
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