Dry Tropics Water Smart Residential Outdoor Water Conservation Program
Encouraging Residents of Townsville to Reduce Outdoor Water Consumption
What is the Dry Tropics Water Smart Program?
The ‘Dry Tropics Water Smart - Residential Outdoor Water Conservation Program’ is an initiative of Townsville City Council, Townsville Water and the Queensland Government. Through the program, Townsville City Council is investigating ways to assist residents to reduce their outdoor water use, while also ensuring healthy and resilient gardens and lawns in Townsville. It is expected the program will help inform Council’s strategies for ensuring Townsville remains water secure in the future.
The program being developed in partnership with our research partners at the University of Adelaide and is based on the behaviour change principles of ‘Community Based Social Marketing’ (CBSM) and ‘Thematic Interpretation’ (TI). The program aims to encourage residents to ‘adjust watering schedules to match weather conditions and landscape requirements’ through the investigation of methods to encourage this behaviour and the quantification of the resultant household water savings.
What can you get out of it?
Average household water use in Townsville is amongst the highest in Australia (544kL/yr/household in 2009/10) with a significant proportion of this being used outdoors. By reducing outdoor water consumption residents may:
- increase the health and resilience of their garden and lawns through stronger root growth,
- reduce the time spent watering,
- reduce the loss of fertiliser and organic matter which can be washed out of root zones through over-watering, and
- receive lower water bills (for those on the water watchers plan or those on the standard plan but paying the excess charge)
What has happened so far?
Council in partnership with the research team identified 71 behaviours that residents could adopt that may reduce outdoor water use. These behaviours were investigated for their potential for water savings (in kL) and their likelihood of uptake. This yielded a short list of 12 behaviours (see below) that were further investigated for the potential barriers and benefits for each to inform the community engagement.
1. Add organic matter to the soil (including top dressing the lawn) to improve moisture and nutrient holding capacity.
2. Adjust watering schedule to match seasonal weather conditions and landscape requirements.
3. Group plants with similar water needs together (Hydro-Zoning).
4. Ensure outdoor taps, hoses, water meters and irrigation systems do not leak.
5. Install and use drip irrigation rather than handheld hoses or sprinkler systems.
6. Lightly fertilise lawns to reduce watering needs
7. Improve the water absorption of clay soils by treating with gypsum products.
8. Take the catcher off the mower and leave the grass clippings on the lawn to protect against evaporation.
9. Place mulch on garden beds and potted plants to reduce evaporation and increase organic matter in the soils.
10. Plant vegetation suitable to the climatic conditions.
11. Grow plants best suited to the soil.
12. Reduce lawn area to reduce watering requirement.
For a full list of behaviours, please download this pdf file.
What are the next steps?
The overall community pilot program will consist of three discrete trials, with the first two trials focusing on the provision of water saving aids while the third trial will focus on the use of behaviour change communication methods. Details of three pilots are:
1. ‘Rain-Switch Pilot – Automatic Systems’: This trail is currently being rolled out over the 2011/12 wet season. This trial provides a rain-switch to residents (60 households) with automatic watering systems (which automatically switch off irrigation systems after rainfall). Invitations to participate were offered to residents on the Standard Plan who are consuming more than 772kL/yr (some 9%). A local irrigation specialist visits participants home to install the rain-switch and optimise their irrigation system to suit the requirements of their garden and lawn (based on soil, plant types etc).
2. ‘Soil Moisture Sensor Pilot – Manual Waterers’: This trail will be conducted over the 2012 dry season and will provide two wireless soil moisture sensors and a wireless LED display unit to residents who water manually. Invitations to participate will be offered to residents using less than 350kL/yr with the aim of voluntarily transitioning them into the Water Watchers Plan where relevant. Residents will be invited to participate via mail and once registered a representative of the program will visit the home to provide a briefing on the use of the sensors, and
3. ‘Water Smart Education Pilot’: This trail will be conducted over the 2012 dry season and is focused on the development and dissemination of education and capacity building materials to empower residents to reduce outdoor water consumption. The trial will use a range of tools including thematic communications, online resources, and community sessions. Participation in the pilot will be offered to residents on the Standard Plan that are consuming between 350 and 772kL/yr.
The pilot program is being conducted in accordance with University of Adelaide’s research commitment to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. All information gathered will be treated as confidential and participant responses will remain anonymous with no personal information or household specific information (including water use) to be disclosed.
As well as being in accordance with the Townsville City Council Privacy Statement