Victorian Schools save over 1 billion litres of water

SWEP City scape

It’s the middle of the holidays and the school yard is empty. No one’s waiting in line at the tuck shop nor is there anyone playing down ball on the pavement. The sound of the school bell ringing through the air is absent, in it’s place, just the sound of birds in the trees, and of trickling water. A water pipe has burst and is likely to be unnoticed until the first day of term, wasting water and leaving the school with a large water bill. This situation doesn’t have to be a common one with a new program that helps schools to cut down on water use.

Over a billion litres of water and nearly $3 million has been saved by 490 schools from across Victoria as part of the Schools Water Efficiency Program (SWEP). SWEP involves adding a data logger to the school’s water meters which gives up-to-date information on water consumption.

While schools need to use a lot of water for drinking water, toilets and irrigation of gardens and sporting fields, there are area where big water savings can be made. SWEP helps schools do this, by detecting leaking taps, toilets and faulty appliances which may have otherwise gone on unnoticed and unaddressed. In some cases, schools have saved $10,000 per year which is a huge saving when you consider that participation in SWEP only costs $150 per year.

SWEP also includes a curriculum resource which engages students in the school’s water saving initiatives.

Check out this video to get an overview of SWEP.

Phoenix P-12 Community College

Phoenix P-12 Community College in Sebastopol is among a number of Victorian schools that have undergone recent renovations. A rarely considered factor during renovations is the effect that may be had on the schools water infrastructure, with trucks driving onto the grounds, excavators operating and building activity it’s possible for pipes to be damaged without obvious signs on the surface.

Using the Schools Water Efficiency Program (SWEP) Lorraine Hayes the Business Manager at Phoenix P-12 Community College was able to detect and monitor water losses at the school and develop an action plan. With the site being a mix of new and old buildings and with heavy traffic from construction vehicles the first thing Lorraine had her plumber check were the pipes in the ground.

Using cameras to inspect the pipes the plumbers were able to find leaks and cracks and repair them. While this reduced the water losses to some extent there was still more to be done, by being able check the SWEP system Lorraine could track the plumbers progress in reducing the water losses.

‘Having access to timely data meant our building contractors and plumbers quickly knew if they had been successful in slowing the water losses’
– Lorraine Hayes, Business Manager, Phoenix P-12 College
Phoenix P-12 Community College water consumption graph 

As is often the case the colleges water losses were not restricted to just one problem, the building contractors and plumbers worked methodically around the school identifying rusted galvanised pipe and leaks where new pipes joined with old pipes.

While the school still is experiencing some water losses, based on the successful reduction of their leaks to date, Phoenix P-12 Community College has already saved more than 4 million litres of water that could have cost them more than $10,000.

‘The service we get as part of SWEP really helped us to get to the bottom of our water leaks, monitoring our water usage has enabled us to actively find and repair problems within our school’
– Lorraine Hayes, Business Manager, Phoenix P-12 College 

Further information

SWEP is an award winning program receiving the Excellence in Sustainable Water Management award at the 2014 United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards.

SWEP is a State Government initiative funded by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Schools can sign up now for the three year program and receive the first year for free.

Visit for more information and to register.