Water Journal : Water Journal May 2012
technical features 86 MAY 2012 water water recycling during the period covered by the survey. Another factor affecting greywater use after 2008 was that government rebates were offered for installation of rainwater tanks and purchase of water saving devices. A public education campaign (Target 155) to reduce household water use to 155 litres per person per day also operated from November 2008 to February 2011. Installation of rainwater tanks -- an alternative to greywater for watering of gardens -- was nominated by 17.3% of greywater-using households as the reason for a change in the use of greywater. Nevertheless, even after above average rainfall during the spring/summer of 2010/2011, around 60% of households that had used greywater during the drier years reported they were still continuing to use it when the study was conducted in March/April 2011. This result suggests that there are now 'core' users of greywater unlikely to abandon its use, even in the absence of strict tap water restrictions and/or during higher rainfall periods. This is supported by survey findings where over 85% of greywater- using households stated that they intended to keep using greywater in the future. However, since households more motivated to use greywater would also have been more likely to respond to the survey, these figures may well be higher than would be reported by the general population. Our results also indicate that the prevalence of greywater use will increase again when prevailing weather conditions and lack of sufficient drinking water supplies necessitate the introduction of more stringent restrictions for outdoor tap water use. Increases in the intensity of greywater use can also be predicted the longer that dry weather conditions persist -- in which case rainfall- dependent alternative water sources such as rainwater tank supplies will also be reduced or become depleted. The implications of these findings are that there is a constant need to educate households about the health and environmental risks of greywater use and to strengthen communication efforts when drought conditions recur in the future. Motivations for, and cessation of, greywater use Investigation of the motivation for greywater use among survey respondents showed a variety of reasons for household greywater use. These included reduction of water costs; concerns about sustainability; ease of implementation; a desire to maintain a garden; or desire to pursue another water-using activity despite adverse climatic conditions and reduced tap water availability (see box page 86). While some drivers (e.g. rainfall levels and implementation of tap water restrictions) can be directly linked to greywater use and their effect can be somewhat quantified, it is difficult to disentangle them from other factors. For example, among the 87.0% of greywater users citing 'water restrictions' as a reason for using greywater, 55.8% of these also nominated 'sustainability'. The fact that water sustainability is a concern for more than half of the households citing water restrictions as a driver for greywater use provides a possible explanation as to why at least some households might persist with greywater use even in the absence of water restrictions for outdoor water use. It is possible that increases in the price of tap water may result in future significant increases in household greywater use. Although only about 10% of greywater users provided 'other' reasons for greywater use in a free text answer, a significant fraction of these (40.2%, 45/112) cited 'reducing water costs' as a motivation. The trigger point for increases in household greywater use due to price increases, as for water restriction implementation, is also likely to be confounded by other factors such as 'sustainability' and 'conserving water/ environmental concerns', which might override or highly influence decision- making by householders. A practical barrier to the use of greywater is the suitability of plumbing configurations and access to pipework for diversion of water. Unfortunately the survey did not ask questions of non-users of greywater as to why they chose not to initiate greywater use. Nonetheless, some probable reasons for the non-use of greywater can be gleaned from responses to questions by those greywater-using households that ceased to use greywater some time during the five-year survey period. In addition to the predominant reasons for cessation of greywater use ('there has been more rain'; 'water restrictions relaxed' and 'rainwater tank installed'), many of the reasons related to practical barriers to greywater use: a change of household appliances; change of plumbing or moving to a house where drainage pipes were not accessible; inability to carry buckets and leaking hoses or accidental flooding of the house. From a policy perspective these responses highlight the need for integrated water management strategies to consider aspects of housing design that facilitate greywater collection. For example, easy accessibility of laundry and bathroom drainage pipes should be considered in housing design requirements to maximise the potential for greywater use. Also, future surveys should ask households that do not use greywater about their reasons for not doing so. Guidance on household greywater use Nearly half of households said they were aware of EPAV guidelines on greywater use. Awareness did not influence non-recommended Reasons for greywater usage: a selection of comments by theme Wastage "Seems like a waste to have slightly dirty water going down the drain" "Waste not, want not!" "Why waste it?" "Coming from a dry country area, I value good drinking water" "Dislike unnecessary consumption" "Sensible thing to do (avoid waste)" "To get the maximum from our water supply" "To help preserve the water supply" "To benefit long-term water supply" "Traditional family culture of waste minimisation" Feel good & sustainability benefit "Feel good -- future generations" "Role model for children" "Feel good, as really makes no difference" "Trying to do the right, helpful thing" Practicalities "Laundry water acts as a fertiliser" "To provide moisture to soil around house foundations... soils dry out, particularly during summer" "Kitchen outlet external" "Washing machine outside due to renovations" "Damaged pipes -- didn't want flooding of driveway or house" Importance of garden "Keep garden alive" "Maintain lawn" "To save my garden" "Benefit of the garden" "Hate the dead garden" "Keep lawn green" "Cheaper for the garden"
Water Journal July 2012
Water Journal April 2012