What does rebounding water use look like? An examination of post-drought and post-flood water end-use demand in Queensland, Australia

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Rebounding water use behaviour has been observed in communities that have experienced plentiful water supply following a very dry period. However, the drivers of such rebounds in water consumption are varied and not well understood. Knowledge of such drivers can greatly assist managers towards proactive demand management, modelling and timely promotion of water efficient behaviours. Total and end-use residential water consumption has been tracked in South East Queensland, Australia for a sample of up to 252 homes in post-drought conditions (dam supplies growing but water restrictions continued, changed water use behaviours still ‘fresh’), and during and post-flooding conditions (eased restrictions, 100% dam capacity). Data on end-use water consumption trends using nearly 3 years of residential water end-use data have revealed several interesting patterns of consumption such as a delayed return to pre-drought use, the influence of climate and end-use specific rebounds (e.g. indoor versus outdoor use). The end-use data have helped to identify the drivers of rebounding water consumption which appear to include environmental cues (rainfall, temperature), social cues (e.g. government encouraging consumers to turn on tap) and a gradual general reduction in conservative water use behaviours. The paper concludes with a discussion of how this knowledge can be used to inform long-term demand management policy, particularly in variable climates.

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