Saturday, February 27, 2010

CASE STUDY: Australia's Water Conservation Programs and How They Could Help the US

By Courtney Shipe

According to geologists, "Australia is presently categorized as a high-risk area for water deficiency." This shortage has meant that the country has had to be creative with conservation methods and water recycling programs. Here are some of the methods Australia is currently using and how the United States could benefit from implementing similar ideas.

One program that Australia has had success with is the "BlueScope Tank a Day Challenge". Designed especially for children, this program "presents information on the importance of water conservation in the form of a game. The website, which explains the challenge, is created with colorful characters and inviting scenes meant to engage kids." Children can work through the various elements of the game, including quizzes and interactive games. Since the government started the challenge, over 2000 of Australia's primary schools have participated and the 200 prizes, a water tank for the school, were quickly snapped up.

How could this program be of use in the US? First, by creating a program that appealed to children, Australia has begun teaching their next generation that water conservation is important. Secondly, they encouraged every family within all two thousand schools that participated to think about conservation and how they could do their part. Third, the prize fit in with the goal of water conservation: a rainwater tank and pump. If state and local governments in the United States can emulate the success of Australia's Tank a Day Challenge, not only would they conserve water in the short term, but they would be teaching America's children the importance of water conservation for the future.

Australia's Water Conservation and Reuse Research Program is another that America should imitate. The focus of this program is "to find ways of using the sewage water for irrigation and reducing the level of pollutants that enter the soil and make it infertile." Public awareness campaigns are also a part of this program. Different US states have programs that are somewhat similar to this in the public awareness category, but many US programs leave out the critical step of researching new ways to reuse wastewater.

There are few filtering systems in the US that already reclaim sewer water into potable, drinking water, so the technology does exist. The greatest problem is convincing a reluctant public that wastewater can be cleaned up thoroughly enough to be safe. If American states can put into practice a program such as Australia's and begin filtering their sewer water like Texas, Virginia, and California than many state's water shortages will be significantly impacted.

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