Perceived performance of decentralised water systems: a survey approach

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Decentralised water systems are considered to be effective, beneficial and are useful in a number of urban and peri-urban settings, and have been implemented to varying degrees across much of Australia. The use of decentralised water systems has introduced a change in the style of water service delivery and often there are new actors responsible and involved in the maintenance and operation of these systems. This raises questions about how to best implement and govern the use of decentralised water systems. To understand the issues and problem mitigation approaches required for decentralised systems, collection of data on the effectiveness, difficulties, functional aspects and ongoing problems in providing water services is required. Understanding the issues involved is not necessarily straightforward, as performance can be viewed from many different perspectives and may be difficult to measure. One key perspective to consider is that of householders, in their role as end-users of decentralised water systems. This paper suggests that dedicated household surveys can provide important information on the performance of decentralised water systems based on personal understanding and experience of these systems. This is stated on the basis of householder survey trials which indeed seem to provide useful information, both in terms of feedback from the individual and in generating a coherent data set from which to statistically model the adequacy of various implementation styles and governance structures. An exploration of data sets from survey trials have contributed to collective learning, necessary in firmly establishing decentralised systems as viable options for the provision of urban water services now and into the future.

Keywords: community engagement, decentralised systems, social learning, survey methods

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