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Industry should look to younger generations as water sustainability allies

Millennials are least likely to understand water consumption costs, yet this generation is becoming the vocal and enthusiastic supporters of water sustainability that the industry has been looking for.

However, the water industry needs to “get better at engaging younger generations”, said Arup Australasia Water Business Leader Daniel Lambert.

Findings from the AWA/Arup 2016 Australian Water Outlook Report show 19% of 18- to 30-year-olds considered water a low priority; that's compared to 12% of total community respondents who said the same.

“[18- to 30-year-olds] don't have as much awareness of water in terms of what it costs or how much they use compared to older generations,” said Lambert, a water talk panellist at the recent World Science Festival in Brisbane.

“An aspect of that is many people from younger generations don't own their own home, or even live in a home; many live in apartments that don't have individual water meters and don't have individual water bills – or they live at home so they don't pay the bills.”

Yet the millennial generation are likely to be open to the kinds of green engineering and water sustainability solutions that will be critical in delivering clean and plentiful water to the world’s increasingly urbanised populations.

“Many from the younger generations have a passion for the environment and being more sustainable in how they live,” Lambert said.

“If we can tie that passion to specific actions they can take, that would be very valuable.”

Lambert said the industry needed to re-think the medium and the message in order to engage younger supporters of a water-wise future.

“They're obviously much more in touch with technology, so how do we utilise smart phone apps, online payments and different types of communication?,” he said.

“And then how do we raise water as an issue that young people – particularly in cities – are aware of and feel will affect them?”

Perhaps the way to millennials' hearts is through their stomachs, Lambert said.

“Tying water back to food and agriculture is one of the ways we can communicate the issue; we need to make sure that our regional areas are able to provide sustainable food for us and elsewhere in the globe,” he said.

“The food/water/energy nexus is important.”

Are you a young water professional or new to the industry? Looking to connect with young water professionals and source the next generation of water industry leaders? Join us for the YWP Program at the upcoming Ozwater'17 conference in Sydney. To learn more and to register, click here