Every drop counts (2000)
Australia is a dry continent. By studying how we use water, scientists can develop new ways to conserve this precious commodity.
[Music plays and text appears: sci files © 1999 CSIRO]
[Image changes to show different sources of water, from sprinklers to showerheads and taps]
Narrator: We all know where water comes from – out of taps. And most Australians have grown up believing that the supply of water from our taps is endless. But in reality it’s taken great engineering feats to get the water to us, especially in the cities.
[Image changes to show the camera panning over a dam wall]
Dams have been built and rivers diverted and while this has meant an abundant supply of clean water in the past, there is a danger that in the not so distant future water may become a scarce and valuable commodity.
[Image changes to show Dr Geoff Syme, CSIRO]
Syme: It’s becoming an international problem, cities are gobbling up too much water and are polluting at the same time and something has to be done about it.
[Camera pans over a dry landscape]
Narrator: Australia is a dry land and country dwellers constantly face droughts and water restrictions.
[Image changes to show children playing at a water park]
In the city though water is taken for granted, but if we don’t stop using it so carelessly we may all face water shortages in the future.
[Image changes to show a toilet being flushed and then moves back to Dr Geoff Syme]
Syme: We used to have lots of rivers and only a few dams, now we’ve got a lot of dams and few rivers. In other words the easy development of water is long gone for Australia. We need to learn better how to manage what we’ve got.
[Image changes to show Dr Syme collaborating with colleagues]
Narrator: Geoff Syme, from Australia’s science organisation, CSIRO, has been working with the Water Corporation in his hometown of Perth to find out how people are using water in their homes.
[Image changes to show a woman conducting a survey on another woman]
Six hundred houses are being monitored for information about their water usage and a further 120-households have had special water meters installed.
[Image changes to show special water meter being installed]
The meters are checked each week by the West Australian Water Corporation to record how much water is used and at what time of the day and when this data is combined with more specific written information from the householder about how that water has been used a pattern of use can be established.
[Camera pans over a bar graph that’s showing on a computer monitor]
Syme: Well the meters help us because they, for the first time fairly effectively, they can tell us when and where we use the water and what sequence and why we have peaks in water use and so on.
[Image has changed back to Dr Geoff Syme]
Once we know how much good, quality drinking water is being used for irrigating our gardens and flushing our toilets we can figure out, well OK, what is the capacity for us to recycle that water in the house so that in fact we’re not using high quality water once and sending it down the drain.
[Image changes to show different sources of water, from showerheads to taps]
Once this pattern of water use is known, authorities will attempt to educate people by persuading them to change the way they use water in their homes.
[Image changes to show a woman putting clothes into a washing machine]
For example, the laundry and bath water could be stored in tanks for reuse on the garden or in the toilet. An industry encouraged to design better appliances, such as water tanks specifically designed for city dwellings.
[Image has changed back to show Dr Geoff Syme, CSIRO]
Syme: We need to take notice now. All the easy solutions are gone in Australia, every drop of water a city uses is taking it away from the environment and is polluting it to some degree.
[Image changes to show a man collecting data from a water meter]
By finding out how we are using our water, scientists can develop ways to help save this precious commodity before it’s too late.
[Music plays and text appears: Sci files © 2000 CSIRO]