The average dwelling in Melbourne has one of the highest water consumption rates in the developed world.1 Conventional water supplies will not be sustainable if the current rate of consumption continues and Melbourne’s population increases by an expected one million people over the next 30 years.
Rainwater tanks have been recognised for considerably reducing mains water demand, however little education has been provided on the value of using rainwater inside the home for toilet flushing and reuse in the laundry.
Current research indicates that 57 per cent2 of people researching rainwater tanks would like to use them for garden watering, demonstrating a significant gap in consumer knowledge of the potential technologies available to greatly improve the utilisation of captured rainwater.
To address this gap, an educational and awareness program was needed to encourage the Victorian public to substitute rainwater for mains water for specific indoor uses where the demand patterns are flat and can offer year round water savings.
A grant from the Smart Water Fund provided assistance to Davey Products, an Australian water products manufacturer, to develop a public awareness campaign comprising:
- Advertorials in mass media publications
- A direct mail campaign of 380,000 brochures delivered across metro Melbourne
- A public relations campaign
- Public exhibitions, and
- Radio advertising.
As connecting a rainwater tank to a toilet and laundry offers extensive water savings and a high utilisation of up to 74 per cent3, Davey’s RainBank® type systems would provide an excellent promotional tool to encourage this alternative use for rainwater within the home.
The campaign was directed at people who were considering building a new home built or renovating, as this is the most cost effective time for a RainBank® type controller and tank system to be installed.
As a result of the campaign, it is estimated that over 2 million Victorians have been exposed to the concept of rainwater harvesting being suitable for use inside the home.
Key findings from each of the targeted media are as follows:
- Fifty-six pieces of print media coverage was secured
- The response rate to the radio advertising campaign was relatively minimal, with the trained call centre receiving over 300 calls during the campaign. These were mostly from consumers alreadyready to make a purchase.
- Approximately 380,000 direct mail brochures were delivered to a range of postcodes across metro Melbourne, principally around new suburbs and high value suburbs likely to be undergoing renovations with high discretionary incomes. The response was quite significant with a peak of 100 calls per day within three days of the brochure being delivered. Within the four month period the call centre received over 1000 calls.
- Public exhibitions were the most successful element of the program with estimated traffic through all exhibitions in excess of 290,000 people. Those that attended were able to view working rainwater tanks being used to flush toilets. This is clearly the most effective vehicle to demonstrate the principle and engage the public with hands on opportunities to touch and work the systems and visualise the elements of a rainwater harvesting system within their own home.
Of all household water use in Melbourne, 14 per cent is used for toilet flushing and 14 per cent is used in the laundry4. By using rainwater for toilet flushing and in the laundry, water use from catchments could be significantly reduced.
If 40 per cent of all new homes and 1 per cent of all existing homes opted for rainwater tanks with each home saving 35 per cent of their mains water use, it is estimated the potential water savings could be approximately 2.4 million kilolitres per year.
Following the rainwater tank public awareness campaign, members of the Australian Rainwater Industry Development group (ARID) reported a rapid increase of sales within the Melbourne metropolitan stores, with enquiry rates from consumers described as ‘growing daily’.
Most retailers commented that they would have at least one consumer every day looking for a rainwater tank that could be used for toilet flushing and laundry applications.
2 Rainwater Tanks Quantitative Findings: Quantam Market Research job: 23047. Savewater®! 8.03
3 Urban Domestic Water Tanks: Lifecycle Assessment. T Grant, M Hallmann. AWA Journal 8.03