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Darwin water education program adds free water auditing to the mix

Power and Water’s That’s My Water! education program has been released for the 2024 year with a new water audit offering in a bid to help Darwin schools reduce their water use.

Alongside the usual curriculum-aligned learning, schools that sign up to the education program are offered a free water-efficiency audit undertaken by Power and Water experts, providing analysis of water use that can help identify ways to save water or uncover leaks.

Millner Primary School participated in a trial of the new program last year and has since achieved a 46% reduction in its water use – down from 131,000 litres per day to around 60,000 litres per day.

Principal Noella Goveas said Millner Primary has been able to almost halve its water use, collecting a saving of about $5,000 each month.

“This was such an unexpected outcome for us and it has meant we can now redirect these funds to other priorities within our school,” she said.

“Add to this the outstanding experience our students gained from the curriculum-aligned learning program and it’s absolutely a win-win. I can’t speak highly enough of the program and what it offers both schools and students.”

Power and Water Manager of Water Demand Joel Spry said the education program has been designed with local water knowledge in mind, and extending the program to include free water auditing reiterates the program’s messaging in a practical and helpful way.

“That’s My Water! was designed to be about local water. We wanted to give our students the full Darwin water story, so that when they play under the sprinkler around the house they actually think about turning the taps off to help save water,” he said.

“When we are working with the students, we do water walks around the school. It’s like a big detective game. Students are able to pick up where the sprinklers aren’t working properly and leaks are occurring. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to teach children about saving water and then not help out the ground staff at their schools.

“We have been doing school water audits and efficiency strategies for a while, but we have never officially combined the two. We’ve put them together so that when we engage a school through the That’s My Water! education program, we also help them reduce their water use too.”

Finding savings

Spry said the trial, as well as other water efficiency auditing work carried out by Power and Water, showcases the huge opportunity to reduce water use significantly with simple changes.

“Schools are really focused on educating kids, it’s their number one priority. They are not necessarily focused on water efficiency. If the grass is kept green, they’re happy,” he said.

“But there are some really simple little tweaks we can make to help them keep their grounds green and safe, while also saving water.

“Often sprinkler systems are set for the evening or during times when no one is at the school, which means no one gets the chance to see if it’s working properly. We’ve turned on systems with water shooting directly into brick walls, some systems with big leaks, too.”

About 80% of the water use in Darwin schools is in irrigation, Spry said, but the audit also looks at toilets and taps inside the schools.

“There is also a training aspect to the program. We can come in and do an audit, but we really want to train the grounds staff to improve their water efficiency knowledge and help them be proactive,” he said.

“We are running sessions on why and how you can water more efficiently, as well as how to manage the irrigation control platforms.

“In our trial, we were able to help Millner Primary School save around $5000 per month in the first few months following efficiencies. That’s a lot of money; it’s iPads, books and excursions that could be directly supporting students in their learning, rather than wasted water.”

Inspiring careers

Aside from educating Darwin students about their local water story, the program also encourages students to engage with an inquiry-based learning exercise, one that exposes students to a variety of STEM-based learning and thinking.

“The kids are issued a challenge at the start of the unit – a Darwin water challenge that they need to solve. Their task is to come up with a water saving initiative that they can share with their community,” Spry said.

“There are all sorts of different things that students have come up with – songs, rhymes, evaporation busting solutions, TV ads, clothing businesses with water saving slogans, dioramas or models. We’re really creative up here and that energy comes through in the students’ ideas.

“They engage with all types of science and engineering principles and they get exposure to Power and Water employees sharing their knowledge in the classroom, which is great inspiration for the students in terms of local career opportunities.”

The in-person access students gained to Power and Water STEM experts during the program was an important bonus for Millner Primary School, Goveas said.

“Our students saw first-hand that there are organisations within close proximity to their school that are offering careers and jobs in areas they themselves are passionate about,” she said.

“This experience for students is invaluable – no matter what year level you’re in, any exposure to career pathways is a vital part of inspiring our young people and setting them up for success.”

Spry said that, while the program has been running for about eight years now, Power and Water is always looking for new ways to support student learning, promote careers in water and enable sustainable water use into the future.

“That’s My Water! has a proud history of offering engaging STEM programs for students and we can now also deliver water saving outcomes for schools,” he said.

“We all have a role to play in ensuring the Territory’s water future and the new That’s My Water! program enables us to help schools take action and reflect the very learning their students are undertaking about water sustainability.”

That’s My Water! 2024 programs are now open with limited places available. Register here.