Water has long been acknowledged as Australia’s most precious resource, but it doesn’t stop us from wasting it. While poor infrastructure or a poor understanding of personal use can be major factors in excess water use Griffith research has revealed that water use in remote communities can dwarf urban use.

Providing water to remote and isolated communities is expensive, whether it comes from a desalination plant or a groundwater bore.

Research has found average daily water use in rural and remote communities of 900 litres per person, rising to more than 4,000L per person per day in some remote communities. The average daily use in southeast Queensland households is around180L per person.

This has contributed to some communities having drinking water available for only nine hours a day.

The Cities Research Institute, led by senior research fellow, Dr Cara Beal has recently contracted with councils from the Torres Strait to the Gold Coast to help communities gain control of their water use. With the help of software designed by Griffith researchers.

“For some places it’s about water use, for others it can be poorly maintained infrastructure or devices. Many communities are looking for strategies to reduce their water use, we help them achieve that,” said Dr Beal.

The Autoflow system, is advanced software connected to smart meters that can identify how, when and where the water is being used in a home. It can also identify leaks and potential defective infrastructure. This information can help to develop tailored demand management strategies.

“The smart-meters basically record ​14mL​pulsesof water ​every10 seconds ​andthen remotely ​sendthis data to an online portal.We have developedsoftwarethat is then able to break it down into eight differentend-​uses,” she said.

“We’ll be able to chart the use of water: indoors, outdoors, showers, leaks etc and this allows us to talk to the communities or organisations about targeted water use plans for single building or for a whole community depending on the type of water end-uses we have identified.”

The Autoflow system development was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry partners Yarra Valley Water, City West Water, South East Water and Aquiba.

Past research has found 75% of outdoor water use in Cape York and the Torres Strait came from five key activities (aside from leaks):

  • dust control (and flea control) from non-surfaced roads and yards
  • cooling down houses, by watering roofs, earth or driveways
  • washing down boats and fishing or hunting equipment
  • gardening
  • social gatherings, cultural and family.

TSI councils have contracted Dr Beal’s group to help design a water saving programs for some of the communities as well assist in procurement of infrastructure and monitoring.

Similar contracts have also recently been signed with 30 public and private schools on the Gold Coast as part of the Councils’ School’s Water Conservation Project. Dr Beal’s group will conduct an audit of water use, assist the schools in developing water saving plans and assist in implementing these plans.

“We help communities and schoolsdevelop water savings plans by ​using much better data than they had previously.They can then makemore ​informed, evidence-based ​decisionsthat allow them to prioritise areas for water savings,” Dr Beal said.

The schools will also apply smart water monitoring technology that will enable grounds managers to monitor water use in real time and identify a water savings plan to combat inefficiencies.

The projects should be completed in early 2019.