4602.0.55.003 - Environmental Issues: Water use and Conservation, Mar 2013 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/10/2013   
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1 The statistics in this publication were compiled from data collected in the Water Use and Conservation (WUC) Survey conducted throughout Australia in March 2013 as a supplement to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). The survey collected data about water usage and water conservation practices of Australian households. This survey is a continuation of a series of surveys on this topic conducted since March 1994. The previous WUC Survey was conducted in March 2010.

2 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about the LFS survey design, scope, coverage and population benchmarks. This information also applies to supplementary surveys. The LFS publication contains definitions of demographic characteristics and information about telephone interviewing.


3 The scope of this supplementary survey was usual residents of private dwellings and excluded the following:

  • members of the Australian permanent defence forces
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from censuses and surveys
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependents)
  • households in Indigenous Community Frame (ICF) Collection Districts (CDs).
4 This supplementary survey also excluded people living in special dwellings (such as hotels, university residences, students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, residents of homes (e.g. retirement homes, homes for persons with disabilities), and inmates of prisons).

5 This supplementary survey was conducted in urban, rural, remote and very remote areas in all states and territories of Australia, except indigenous communities in ICF CDs. This is the first time the survey has excluded households in ICF CDs from its estimates, namely in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. This exclusion has minimal impact on Australian level estimates. However, it could have an impact on Northern Territory estimates, as around 10% of Northern Territory households that were previously included are now excluded. Most of the ICF CDs are located in very remote areas of Australia.


6 The survey's coverage was households in urban, rural, remote and very remote areas in all states and territories of Australia, excluding households in ICF CDs.


7 The sample for the WUC Survey was approximately 16,500 households. After taking into account sample loss, the response rate for the survey was 89%. In total, information was collected from 12,997 fully responding households for the March 2013 survey.

8 Information was collected through interviews conducted over a two-week period during March 2013. Information was collected from any responsible adult in the household who was asked to respond on behalf of the household.



9 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each enumerated household. The weight is a value which indicates how many households in the population are represented by the sample household.

10 The first step in calculating weights for each unit is to assign an initial weight, which is the inverse of the probability of the unit being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a household being selected in the survey was 1 in 700, then the household would have an initial weight of 700 (that is, it represents 700 households).


11 The initial weights are then calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population, referred to as benchmarks. The population included in the benchmarks is the survey scope. This calibration process ensures that the weighted data conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population described by the benchmarks rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over or under-enumeration of particular categories of households which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response.

12 The survey uses estimated resident population (ERP) based household benchmarks for each state and territory of Australia, as at 31 March 2013.


13 Survey estimates of household counts are obtained by summing the weights of households with the characteristic of interest.


14 Estimates in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors:
  • Sampling error is the difference between the published estimate and the value that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. For further information refer to the Technical note.
  • Non-sampling error may occur in any collection whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording answers by interviewers, and errors in coding and processing data. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error by careful design and testing of the questionnaire, training of interviewers, extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing and follow up of respondents.


15 Information recorded in this survey is essentially ‘as reported’ by respondents and hence may differ from that which might be obtained from other sources or via other methodologies. This factor should be considered when interpreting the estimates in this publication.


16 Data from the 2013 WUC Survey is released under the title Environmental Issues: Water Use and Conservation, 2013 (cat. no. 4602.0.55.003). Data from the 2010 WUC Survey is released under the title Environmental Issues: Water Use and Conservation, 2010 (cat. no. 4602.0.55.003).

17 Prior to 2008, the annual publication Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0) focussed on one of three rotating topics each year: Water Use and Conservation, Energy Use and Conservation, and Waste Management, Transport and Motor Vehicle Usage.

18 The ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability of estimates over time by minimising changes to its surveys. Sound survey practice however, requires ongoing review to maintain the integrity of the data. A few changes were made to the survey between 2010 and 2013. Significant changes, are outlined below.

The following data items are not comparable due to changes to collection methodology:
  • 'Dwelling tenure': In 2010, one question was used to determine dwelling tenure, whereas in 2013, four questions were used. This change was made in order to more accurately classify tenure types such as rent buy schemes, shared equity schemes, life tenure schemes, rent-free and other tenure types, which have become more common in recent years.
  • 'Sources of water - recycled or grey water': In 2010, one question about taking water that has been used for one purpose and then re-using it for a different purpose, was not included (previously included in 2007). The purpose of this question was to provide a description of recycled or grey water, and prompt respondents to report this type of water source. The 2013 survey re-introduced this question to more accurately estimate the use of recycled or grey water as a water source. Accordingly, the 2007 and 2013 estimates are comparable, however, these estimates are not comparable with 2010.
  • New data items collected in the 2013 survey
      • Number of other types of toilets at dwelling
      • Whether rainwater tank is plumbed into dwelling
      • Reasons why do not drink mains/town tap water
      • Whether household had problems with the rainwater tank in last 12 months
      • Whether household had carried out any maintenance on rainwater tank in last 12 months
      • Who usually undertakes the maintenance of the rainwater tank
      • Whether swimming pool has a cover
      • Whether outdoor spa has a cover
      • Whether dwelling has a shared bore or well (WA households only)
      • Whether dwelling has considered installing a bore or well in last 12 months (WA households only)
  • Data items removed from the 2013 survey
      • Number of bedrooms
      • Number of other type of flushing toilets at dwelling
      • Number of non-flushing toilets at dwelling


19 Remoteness areas and Dissemination regions are classified according to the Statistical Geography Volume 1 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), Jul 2006 (cat. no. 1216.0).


20 ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated and without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


21 The ABS plans to conduct this survey again in March 2016.


22 Users may also wish to refer to the following ABS publications:

23 Further key references on water use and conservation can be found through the following web sites:
  • Department of the Environment (http://www.environment.gov.au/)
  • Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead.


24 All tables in this publication are also available in a Data Cube (spreadsheet format). For a complete list of tables in the Data Cube, please refer to the contents page of the spreadsheet.


25 In addition to the statistics provided in this publication and the Data Cubes, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Subject to confidentiality and sampling variability constraints, additional tabulations may be produced from the survey. All inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.