Sydney, Australia, October 12, 2010 – Australians value water as a precious resource and believe enjoying water is an essential part of our culture, but there is grave concern for Australia's water security in light of forecast population increases, according to research commissioned by MWH Australia, an environmental and water engineering services firm.
According to the research, conducted among over 1,000 Australians, 97% of Australians have fond childhood memories involving playing with tap water, whether under the sprinkler, with water pistols, water bombs or cooling off under a hose, and the vast majority (89%) believe it is important the next generation of Australian children are able to create their own memories playing with water.
Also key to the Australian psyche is the innate sense of duty to conserve water, according to 95% of Australians who believe it is every Australian's responsibility to make good use of our water. So much so, Australians have developed an emotional reaction to wasting water, 90% agree it just doesn't feel right to leave a tap running (like riding in a car without a seatbelt) and 81% feel guilty if they use water unwisely. Interestingly it appears Boomers care more about saving water than Gen Ys.
Peter Fagan, Head of Sustainability at MWH Australia, said, "Far and away the vast majority of Aussies recognise water as a precious natural resource and feel a genuine duty to use it wisely, given our arid land. Also, nearly all of us have memories of childhood fun playing with tap water and see that enjoyment of water as another key part of our culture, and something to preserve."
Mr Fagan said what was particularly interesting about this research was that it challenged some of the stereotypes about attitudes to water conservation. "It turns out Baby Boomers care more about not wasting water than the younger generations. Surprisingly, Gen Y, a generation often considered the most environmentally aware and active, appears the least water-saving savvy."
Boomers vs Gen Y
- Baby Boomers (94%) are the most likely to feel uncomfortable leaving a tap running (compared to 89% of Gen X and 82% of Gen Y)
- Baby Boomers (86%) are also the most likely to feel guilty using water unwisely (compared to 80% of Gen X and only 75% of Gen Y)
- Baby Boomers (27%) are the least likely to agree that because they pay for their water they should be able to use it however they want (compared to 38% of Gen X and 42% of Gen Y)
- Baby Boomers (69%) are the most likely to do more to conserve water than is required (compared to 56% of Gen X and 34% of Gen Y)
- Gen Y (9%) are the most likely to say they don't think about saving water at all (compared to 3% of Gen X and 2% of Baby Boomers)
- Only 35% of Gen Y rate themselves as very good or excellent at water saving (compared to 47% of Gen X and 57% of Baby Boomers)
Adult immigrants vs. Born in Australia
- While adult immigrants are the least nostalgic about water, they are perhaps the most responsible, with 92% saying leaving a tap running does not feel right (compared with 90% of those born in Australia). Similarly, this group experiences a higher degree of guilt if they use water unwisely (83%, compared with 81% of those born in Australia).
House vs. Apartment dwellers
- Those living in houses (49%) are more likely to believe their household is doing a very good or excellent job saving water, compared to 41% of those living in an apartment.
Men vs. Women
- Men (41%) are more likely than women (28%) to believe they should be able to use water however they want, since they pay for it.
States vs. States
- Respondents were asked to rate how good they are at saving
water. States are ranked below from highest to lowest proportion
who felt they are doing a very good or excellent job:
- Victoria (57%)
- Queensland (52%)
- NSW/ACT (47%)
- South Australia (44%)
- Western Australian (38%)
Water restrictions have altered consumer behaviour, with four in five (82%) facing water restrictions agreeing they have fundamentally changed the way their household uses water. However, this may not last as 50% believe they would be less careful if water restrictions were lifted in their area.
Population and water infrastructure
The vast majority (91%) of Australians are concerned that Australia's current water supply will not be able to support a significant population increase in the next five years.
Mr Fagan said, "When thinking about population growth and water use, it is really a question of supply versus consumption. The pressure on our water supply by population growth in simple terms will either require many Australians to reduce, or further reduce, their water usage, or more water infrastructure will need to be built."
When asked to choose between more infrastructure (such as dams or desalination plants) versus restricted water supply, 76% of Australians said they would prefer increased water infrastructure as opposed to 18% opting for a restricted water supply, to ensure water security for the future.
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