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Understanding the water usage behaviour of Australian households is important for the continued management and planning of water resources. This is especially important when forecasting future household water demands.
Rainwater is an essential resource that provides a renewable supply of water that can be used for a range of purposes including drinking, washing, bathing, laundry and gardening. In some parts of Australia it may be the main source of household water, while in others, it can supplement existing mains or town water supplies. Rainwater can assist self sufficiency and can provide a valuable alternative supply in times of drought or water restrictions.
In March 2013, 34% of Australian households living in a dwelling suitable for a rainwater tank had a rainwater tank compared with 32% in 2010 and 24% in 2007. The increase from 2007 to 2013 may be attributed to water restrictions, government rebate schemes, water regulations and water pricing. (Table 10)
Rainwater tanks were a more prevalent feature for households residing outside capital cities (44%) compared with those living in capital cities (28%). Around 86% of South Australian households living outside of Adelaide had a rainwater tank installed at their dwelling, followed by 56% of Victorian households living outside of Melbourne. Of those households living in a state capital city, households in Brisbane and Adelaide were more likely to have a rainwater tank installed at their dwelling (47% and 44% respectively) followed by households in Melbourne (31%). (Table 10 and Graph 4)
Annotation(s): (a) No regional split between capital city and balance of state/territory for NT and ACT as the sample does not support any breakdown
Footnote(s): (b) Not all data available for graph as relative standard error greater than 25%
Of those households that had a rainwater tank, over half (51%) had the tank connected to a tap or outlet inside the dwelling via water piping. This was more common for households living outside capital cities (67%) compared with those in capital cities (33%). Households in the Australian Capital Territory were the least likely to have their rainwater tank connected to an indoor tap or outlet (13%) compared with the other states and territories. Of those households residing in a state capital city, Hobart had the highest proportion of households with their rainwater tank connected to an indoor tap or outlet (82%). (Table 11)
Of the 1.7 million households that installed their own rainwater tank, nearly half (49%) installed the tank to save water. Another common reason was to save on the cost of water (23%). Of those households residing in a state capital city, a majority (60%) installed their rainwater tank to save water. Households in Melbourne were the most likely to have installed a rainwater tank due to restrictions on mains water (38%). (Table 12)
Most of the households with a rainwater tank did not report having any problems with their rainwater tank system in the last 12 months (77%). Of those households that did have a problem, a breakdown or problem with the pump was a common problem (41%). (Table 13)
Preventative maintenance and cleaning of rainwater tank systems, including catchment areas, are important to ensure good water quality. About 58% of households with a rainwater tank had some type of maintenance work carried out on their rainwater tank system in the last 12 months. Of those 1.5 million households, a common type of maintenance work undertaken was cleaning the gutters of catchment areas (83%). Maintenance activities were usually undertaken by members of the household (76%), and tradespeople or other maintenance professionals (14%). (Table 14)
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