In 1995, south east Australia settled in for yet another drought. With such a massive landmass, devastating floods can affect one area, while unprecedented droughts can affect another. No-one was to know this latest drought was to last until 2009, and change Australia’s thinking on water conservation forever. The Millennium Drought had begun.
As the drought dragged on, the Australian and state governments began discussions on how to improve the water supply to the country’s driest areas. Piping water hundreds of miles from areas of high rainfall were considered, and the possibility of building expensive desalination plants. While government’s pondered the feasibility of these alternatives, the people of Melbourne began buying rain tanks.
Although farmers had long used tanks to catch rainwater for livestock and crops, the use of similar tanks in residential areas was a bit hit and miss. Some installed rainwater tanks to water lawns and plants, some didn’t. More residents in Melbourne started to take advantage of available rebates to install rainwater tanks to collect rainwater and the run-off from roofs. By 2009, 33% of Melbourne homes had fitted rain tanks.
As other water saving equipment became available, many residents upgraded their water tanks to collect ‘grey’ water. Water which had been used in baths, sinks, showers, washing machines, and dishwashers was recycled to water lawns, gardens and to wash cars.
It was decided the construction of the desalination plant was the most cost-effective option, and it was completed in 2012. In the meantime, the state of Victoria concentrates heavily on water conservation, offering subsidies for water efficient washing machines, dishwashers, cisterns, showerheads and of course rainwater tanks.