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Issues of domestic water use in four remote Indigenous communities in South Australia

These projects sought to provide a response from four Aboriginal communities to the National Water Initiative directives to move to a full cost recovery ‘user pays’ system. The impact on Aboriginal communities of a move to user pays was examined through an analysis of the cost of living in all four communities with the aim of ascertaining capacity to pay for water and water efficient infrastructure.

The projects found that the percentage of income spent on water in the four communities ranged between 0.8% to 3.3% of weekly household income. At the same time, between 82 to 130% of income is spent on basic food and health items, indicating there is little capacity to increase household water payments. Any move to a ‘user pays’ system would place families under considerable financial stress.

A range of water saving technologies were identified for the four communities. These included increased rainwater collection, installation of passive temperature control features to reduce reliance on evaporative cooling systems, installation of dual flush toilets and waterless urinals, and conducting household water audits of internal fittings.

In one community, a Water Smart Grant to increase rainwater harvesting was received thanks to the assistance of the project.

The projects found modest water use in all four communities, however there is scope to improve water use efficiency. In some communities further water savings are being hindered by inappropriate housing design and leaking infrastructure, but the cost of solutions will be an obstacle to their implementation.

An action research approach was used for these projects. Aboriginal people from four communities in South Australia – Nepabunna, Yarilena, Scotdesco and Davenport – participated in focus groups and interviews, as well as undertaking data collection. These projects are also sub-project of the Desert Knowledge CRC.

Related resources:
Project leader

Meryl Pearce



Administering institution:

Flinders University