The savewater!® Alliance was officially established as a not for profit organisation in 2004, and after 10 years, the Alliance is winding down, so now is the perfect time to celebrate some of savewater!®’s achievements. The savewater!® Alliance created an independent platform for the water industry to support and celebrate initially water conservation and then water efficiency. The environment in which savewater!® was established in 2004 was a rapidly worsening water crisis across eastern Australia, traditional water infrastructure was not capable of meeting demand and changing community behaviour was a priority.
The Alliance used the initial investment from the water industry to build a comprehensive website on ‘saving water’ with well researched features. The website focused on how people used water, based on rooms in the house and this widely adopted approach is still very popular. The Alliance created a product library to showcase water efficient products and a competition so people could try them out if they won.
One of the earliest programs introduced were the national savewater! Awards®, a black tie celebration of water conservation achievements in business, community, products and education. Many savewater!® Alliance award winners have gone on to fame and fortune, including a then little known landscape designer, Philip Johnson, who recently took out Best in Show at Chelsea.
Another popular event was the annual Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show where tens of thousands of gardeners enjoyed the savewater!® Alliance exhibits and spent five days watching demonstrations, asking difficult questions, and telling stories about their unique experiences in saving water.
It is difficult now to articulate the situation in 2006/7. The drought was outside the historical record for Australia, no one could predict what was going to happen or how long it could last. Governments were frantically investing in alternative water sources but without the massive behaviour change at the community level some Australian cities would literally have run out of water. Average consumption dropped from over 300 litres/person/day to 120 in Brisbane and from 244 to 149 in Melbourne in the face of level 5 water restrictions, no outdoor water use at all was permitted. Fortunately, it finally rained, and this ‘land of drought and flooding rains’ saw record breaking floods across eastern Australia.
With the end of the crisis the Alliance message changed. Saving water was no longer a priority, but the drought had showed many ways Australians could enjoy their unique lifestyle and still be efficient with water. Proof of this is that consumption levels have remained well below 200 litres/person/day and show no signs of returning to pre drought levels.
Despite almost all restrictions being lifted households still use less water than they did in 2005/6. We believe there are two critical factors in this reduction, showers and gardens. Australia was an early adopter of some of the best water efficient technology in the world, both in showers and toilets. New showerheads used nearly half the water of the traditional models, despite some much talked about terrible showerheads most of them are at least as comfortable to use, if not better than the traditional model. The savewater!® Alliance supported the water industry to provide 620,000 showerheads to the Australian community, a saving of 12Kl/household or 7.4 billion litres per year, every year.
City dwellers have also changed their gardening habits, reducing lawn area, relying on more water efficient plants and using more efficient irrigation technology.
Community education has always been a focus for savewater!® but it’s school education program was really kicked along in 2008 with the launch of the award winning online game, Mission H2O. The game was developed by students at Swinburne University and was the centre of a national campaign which saw students from across Australia engaged in water conservation.
It also paved the way for additional educational resources being developed including Mission CO2, mini games, and a range of educational books about water. These resources continue to be used in classrooms across Australia.
The savewater!® Alliance website has enjoyed over 400,000 visitors and 1 million page views on the website annually despite no commercial reason for visiting. Social media and this blog have proved an engaging platform to talk about important and not so important issues around making the world a little better.
The future of water lies in integrating the water we need and that we produce with the ways our houses and cities are designed and there is just as much potential for great ideas now as there was in 2004.
While the savewater!® Alliance is coming to an end, a number of its programs will continue on. The savewater!® Alliance is pleased to announce that the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia (RHAA) will take on the management of this blog, the ripple effect to continue providing sustainability advice to the community. The RHAA represents the Australian rainwater industry, and we know that rainwater plays a vital role as an alternative water resource. You are in good hands!
Lastly, thank you for your readership and support of savewater!® over the last 10 years. We wish you all the best in your pursuit of a sustainable future.
The savewater!® team.