4602.0 - Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices, Mar 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/11/2004   
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This publication is the tenth of its type and presents information on environmental behaviour and practices of Australian households and individuals collected in March 2004. Respondents were aged 18 years or older.

This edition focuses on "Water use and conservation" and covers a range of issues including water sources, water supply, rainwater tanks and water saving measures used in households.

Other areas covered include: concern about environmental problems and environmental involvement; use of environmentally-friendly products, fertilisers and pesticides; and use of World Heritage Areas, National and State Parks.


The data in this publication are derived from a supplement to the Monthly Population Survey. Please refer to the Explanatory Notes at the back of this publication for further details about the survey.


A set of changing topics rotate over a period of three years. The topics contained in this publication are compared with data collected in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2001. Where applicable those data have been included in this publication to enable comparisons.

Prior to 1997, environment topics were surveyed using 'personal interview' methodology. From 1997 onwards, the 'any responsible adult' methodology has been applied. When comparing post-1997 and pre-1997 data, readers should be aware that some differences in the data may be explained by the change in methodology rather than the real changes over time.


Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. Published percentages are calculated prior to rounding of the figures and therefore some discrepancy may occur between these percentages and those that could be calculated from the rounded figures.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Bob Harrison on Canberra (02) 6252 7369.



  • In 2004, 8.6 million Australians aged 18 years and over (57%) stated that they were concerned about environmental problems.
  • The level of concern about environmental problems has shown a continual decline since 1992, when three-quarter (75%) of Australians stated they had environmental concerns.
  • The Australian Capital Territory had the highest level of concern (69%) and the Northern Territory the lowest (46%).
  • Those aged between 45-54 years old expressed the most concern about environmental problems (65%), and those 65 years and over the least (47%).
  • In the 12 months prior to March 2004, almost 3 million Australians aged 18 years and over (one in five) donated some time or money to help protect the environment. The proportion was unchanged from 1998 and 2001. People in South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory were the most likely to donate time or money towards environmental protection (23%, 24% and 25% respectively).
  • In the 12 months prior to March 2004, 7% of Australians aged 18 years and over (over 1 million) formally registered an environmental concern either by writing a letter, telephoning, participating in a demonstration, signing a petition or some other means.
  • 13% of people with environmental concerns formally registered an environmental concern (via a letter, telephone, demonstration, signed petition or some other means), and 29% donated time or money to protect the environment. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of people with environmental concerns took neither of these actions.

  • 93% of Australian households were connected to mains/town water in March 2004. 98% of households in capital cities were connected to mains/town water, compared with 85% of households residing outside of capital cities.
  • 80% of Australian households rely on mains/town water as their main source of water for drinking. This rises to 89% for households in capital cities, and drops to 67% for households outside capital cities.
  • Generally, there has been a steady increase in the levels of satisfaction with the quality of mains water for drinking across Australia, from 64% in 1994 to 70% in 2004. Taste (other than being salty) was the single largest problem identified by people dissatisfied with their drinking water (51%). Western Australians nominated this more than any other state (60%), and the Australian Capital Territory residents the least (40%).
  • 17% of households sourced water from a rainwater tank in 2004 ( 9% of households in capital cities and 31% of all other households). Nearly half of all households in South Australia (48%) sourced water from a rainwater tank, with 78% of households outside Adelaide using rainwater tanks.
  • 21% of households purchased bottled water in 2004 and 8% of households had it as their main source of drinking water. Between 1994 and 2004, the proportion of households which purchased bottled water increased from 3% to 21%.
  • 82% of households had a water conservation device inside their dwelling: 74% of households had dual flush toilets in 2004 (up from 39% in 1994 and 64% in 2001) and 44% of households had reduced flow shower heads (up from 22% in 1994 and 35% in 2001).
  • 47% of households engaged in water conservation practices in and around the dwelling. More than half of all households (nearly 54%) reported taking no water conservation steps in the home at all.
  • The most popular water conservation measures in the home included using full loads when washing dishes and clothes, and taking shorter showers (18% of households reported doing each of these).
  • Recycling and/or reusing water was reported by 16% of households, an increase from 11% in 2001. 28% of the Australian Capital Territory households recycled or reused water, increased from 10% in 2001. These were also popular activities in Victoria and Western Australia (21%, increased from 14% in both states).
  • More than 90% of households with gardens reported taking measures in the garden to conserve water.
  • The measure reported most often by households to conserve water in the garden was using mulch (58% in 2004, up from 51% in 2001). New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory all reported large increases in the use of mulch as a water conservation measure.
  • Watering early in the morning or late in the evening was the second most popular water conservation measure for Australian gardens, at 23%. This was most favoured in South Australia (38%) and the Northern Territory (37%)
  • 18% of households used recycled water on the garden, a significant increase from 11% in 2001. States and territories that significantly increased their use of recycled water on the garden since 2001 included New South Wales (9% to 19%); Victoria (13% to 23%); and the Australian Capital Territory (7% to 26%).
  • In 2004, 71% of Australian households hand watered their garden, compared with 66% in 2001. There was a corresponding decrease in the use of fixed and movable sprinklers (from 28% in 2001 down to 15% in 2004 for movable sprinklers, and 31% down to 22% for fixed sprinkler systems).
  • States and territories that reported an increase in measures to conserve water in the garden since 2001 include New South Wales (86% to 90% of households); Victoria (90% to 93%); South Australia (90% to 93%).

  • In 2004, almost nine in ten households in Australia (89%) reported that they purchase environmentally friendly products (EFPs). This was similar to 2001 (90%).
  • Recycled paper products (67% of households ) and products with refillable containers (65% of households) were the EFPs most commonly purchased by Australian households.
  • Most EFPs showed a small decline in their usage, with the purchase of unbleached paper products showing the largest decline (from 63% in 1992 and 51% in 2001 to 46% in 2004).
  • Households in the Australian Capital Territory were more likely to purchase all types of EFPs except for organically grown fruit and vegetables.
  • Cost remains the most important reason why households do not buy EFPs and this reason has increased over time (31% in 1998; 36% in 2001 and 39% in 2004). This reason was most significant for single parent households (59%).
  • In 2004, nearly 3 million households (46%) reported they grow fruit or vegetables in their garden.
  • Most of these households (84%) reported that they used some form of fertilisers in this activity; 76% stated they used manure or compost and 40% used other fertilisers.
  • Nearly 29% of households use pesticide or weedkiller when growing fruit and vegetables in their gardens.

  • In March 2004, nearly 8 million (52%) Australians aged 18 years and over reported that they had visited a World Heritage Area, National or State Park in the 12 months prior to the survey. This proportion is much less than in 1992 when almost two in three Australians (63%) had visited any one of these areas 12 months prior to the survey.
  • People who made a trip to these areas were most likely to be between the ages of 25 and 44 and belong to a household comprising of a couple with dependent children (61%). Least likely to visit a World Heritage Area or a park were persons aged 65 years and over (30%) and those belonging to a single person household (44%).
  • Since 1998, the main reason reported for not visiting a World Heritage Area, National or State Park was lack of time (36%-37%); followed by age/health/inability (17%).
  • People in Western Australia and the Northern Territory (60%) reported the highest visits to a World Heritage Area, National or State Park; and New South Wales the least (50%).