Do Perth residents really have the highest water consumption rate?

Posted 25 July 2017

Washing dishesA recent survey of water consumption in Australia’s capital cities revealed households in Perth use almost twice as much water as their southeast Queensland and Melbourne counterparts. However, that might not be the whole story.

The nationwide survey found Perth residents used 340L per person daily, compared to 166L in Melbourne and 194L in southeast Queensland. 

Monash University Associate Professor Jo Lindsay attributed the difference to attitudes towards water consumption following the Millennium Drought. She said Perth residents showed less concern in the face of dry weather. 

"Perth people are very accepting of desalinated water, recycled water and recharged aquifers," Lindsay said.

"The downside is that there hasn't been as much attention there as in the eastern states on saving water at a household level.

"During the drought there was a really strong sense of crisis [in Melbourne] about dam levels. I think that crisis really changed the way we think about water, whereas Perth hasn't experienced the crisis."

However, some of the results of the survey have been challenged by Water Corporation Chief Executive Sue Murphy, who said the outcomes were skewed. 

Murphy said the study’s results included data from businesses and industry, and that the findings did not take into consideration the difference between indoor and outdoor use. 

"It's outside the house that the difference comes in,” Murphy said.

"That's largely because we have larger block sizes and fewer people living in apartments. We have beach sand in the ground instead of clay in our gardens.”

Murphy said Perth’s outdoor water consumption is also affected by dry conditions not felt as severely by eastern capitals. 

"We usually have no rain from November to March, whereas in Melbourne the wettest months of the year are March and November,” Murphy said. 

"Our wet weather is normally all in winter, and that is why outside use is significantly higher than on the east coast."

Murphy said that while Perth’s water consumption is higher compared to other capitals, residents’ ongoing efforts to reduce water consumption outway those of residents in Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland. 

"It is absolutely true that the people in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane use less water per capita than the people of Perth, but since the end of the Millennium Drought in 2010-11, water use in every one of those capital cities has gone up," Murphy said.

"Our water use since 2001 has come down and down."