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National water literacy event marks record engagement

The Water Conservancy’s Water Night returned again in 2022 to challenge households across Australia to turn off their taps for the evening – no taps, no showers, no running water – to raise awareness of the importance of water-wise behaviours.  

Held during National Water Week last October, 2022 saw the third iteration of Water Night, and the Water Conservancy CEO Chris Philpot said the insights report collated following the event showcases some outstanding results. 

“Water Night has grown, year on year, and it is our goal for the event to get bigger, better and more successful. We started small, but our aim is for Water Night to be as big and successful as Earth Hour,” he said. 

“We are taking baby steps, but it's fantastic to see the successful results from last year. We are certainly heading in the right direction.”

Water Night saw a 40% increase in registrations and an 89% increase in website views – an impressive result for two of Water Night’s key performance indicators – with almost 1500 households participating in the event in 2022. 

Philpot said the objective of Water Night is to help people become more aware of the water that they are using in their homes, and he evaluates the success of meeting this objective with before and after surveys of participants.

“We are taking people on a real journey with Water Night, from raising awareness of water use, helping to improve water literacy and encouraging people to use water more sustainably. In turn, people also become more open to receiving water saving messages, waste less and conserve more,” he said.

“Our participants complete a survey upon registration, which tests their water attitudes and literacy levels. After Water Night, participants are asked to complete a second survey so that we measure how participating in Water Night has changed their attitudes about water,” he said. 

Consistent with results from the two years prior, results from  Water Night in 2022 saw an increase of water literacy by about 26% among participants, as well as an 18 to 20% increase in water awareness. 

“It’s great to see this increase is not just a once-off achievement, but that we are achieving it year after year. Our goal is to one day reach all five million households in Australia. You can imagine the impact we would have if everyone participated,” Philpot said. 

Renewed focus

While Water Night’s target audience remained the same in 2022, Philpot said the strategic approach to the campaign was quite different to previous years, including the introduction of an event theme focusing on water’s connection to climate change and sustainability. 

“Our target audience has always been Gen Z. Our research shows this generation are the biggest water wasters and the most water illiterate. However, they also want to do the right thing by the environment,” he said. 

“And that’s a big opportunity. If we can explain to this generation why using water wisely and being aware of water use is helpful for the environment and climate change, then we are more likely to change their behaviours.”

The theme for Water Night in 2022 was ‘Water – it’s life in every drop’, and Philpot said the new campaign strategy was about resonating with Gen Z values, including caring for the environment. 

“This theme and our associated graphics were all about reflecting the importance of water to the environment. I believe this was one of the main reasons we had a lot better engagement this year,” he said. 

“Our social media and PR went out with our 2022 campaign theme front and centre, with our call to action inviting people to join a nationwide community supporting advocacy for climate change and water awareness.”

Philpot said there is an urgent need to bring water into Australia’s broader sustainability conversation, and making that link in the 2022 Water Night campaign was crucial. 

“We realised that the link to climate change, the environment and sustainability was the key thing we needed to get across. It was a bit of a light bulb moment; we realised we needed to explain the ‘why’ to get more people interested,” he said. 

Tweaking success

Aside from bolstering water’s connection to climate and sustainability, the new Water Night campaign also made a few other adjustments to optimise reach, Philpot said. 

“We aimed for much more diversity in our sponsors and partners. In the first two years, our sponsorship came from the water sector, including utilities councils across various states. But in 2022 we also had sponsorship from our Smart Approved WaterMark licensees and product manufacturers,” he said. 

“Diversification of sponsorship and partners not only boosted our budget, which was fabulous, but also gave us a much larger reach with our supporters promoting the night within their own networks.”

In terms of ambassadors, Philpot said Water Night in 2022 worked again with Costa Georgiadis, who has remained a strong supporter and advocate for the event, but also engaged value-driven social influencers to help spread the word. 

“We decided to go with some of the smaller social influencers to broaden our reach a bit further. Rather than pick a few big names, we decided instead to engage with about 12 key social influencers that pushed our message out across their channels,” he said. 

Another key difference in 2022 was the event time frame, Philpot said, which was changed following feedback from 2021. 

“In the past, the event ran from 12pm to 12am – 12 hours in total. We received a lot of feedback about this length of time, including that it was rather long. There have been a few mixed opinions about the event length,” he said. 

“But we don’t want to deter households from participating genuinely. So we changed it to 5pm until 10pm. We believe this is a long enough period of time for households to experience not having access to water to raise awareness of how important it is to our lives.”

One of the key campaign graphics developed was a water droplet, featured across all campaign materials and communications – the 2022 Water Night website also featured an interactive droplet showcasing short videos submitted by participants. 

“The short videos were of people sharing why they signed up to Water Night. This tied in wonderfully with the Australian Water Association’s theme for National Water Week, which was Our Water Stories,” he said. 

“It was a nice way of both engaging more closely with people who had registered and celebrate National Water Week.”

For the first time, Water Night in 2022 was also supported by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, Philpot said. 

“The department is also now a member of the Australian Water Association, and are key supporters of National Water Week. It’s so great to receive this support for water from the Federal Government,” he said. 

“We had a launch event in Sydney at Bengala Theatre Company, which was well attended, and included a pre-recorded address from Tanya Plibersek, as well as a presentation from Sydney Water’s Roch Cheroux. Holding the launch a few weeks before Water Night really helped us achieve some great PR outcomes, as well.” 

With Water Night set to be held again in October this year, Philpot said the event offers sponsors and supporters the opportunity to align their organisations with water literacy, and reach a highly-engaged audience. 

“We know from our research that Water Night is the only time in the year where people are properly engaged – it’s the only time people stop to think about the water that they use in their home, and why it’s so important to be water wise,” he said. 

“It’s an excellent opportunity for our sponsors and partners to get their message across. Water Night is a highly effective window; our engagement results showcase this clearly. And so we invite all organisations that care about water to join us.”