Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Law and Justice

Faculty

Business and Law

First Advisor

Professor Geoff Syme

Second Advisor

Dr Edward Andre

Third Advisor

Dr Bishnu Devkota

Abstract

The Australian water industry is facing two major challenges: a rise in water demand due to a growing population and a decrease in rainfall availability due to a drying climate. This situation has triggered a re-evaluation of traditional water schemes and promoted consideration of alternatives for sustainable urban water management. One possibility is to replace drinking water usage in garden and outdoor irrigation with non-potable groundwater. This could save almost half of the water supplied in the residential sector, which is the biggest consumer of scheme water in most Australian cities. A major hurdle for the success of such fit-for-purpose groundwater schemes can be the lack of the resident’s participation and support. Currently there are uncertainties about the dynamic nature of individual’s attitudes in terms of satisfaction and accepting behaviours towards the fit-for-purpose water use. This can cause ambiguity in planning and implementation of such projects.

The main purpose of this thesis is to address the following specific research questions:

  • What are the factors that determine residential satisfaction with and behaviours towards the fit-for-purpose groundwater system? and
  • What are the implications of such water system for community, water utilities and urban planners?

These questions have been addressed through a quasi-experimental study utilizing two northern suburbs in Perth metropolitan: Ridgewood and “The Green”. “The Green” is selected as an experimental suburb and Ridgewood is selected as a control suburb, which is a standard metropolitan suburb having the usual main drinking water system. The use of non-drinking groundwater through the dual water supply system in “The Green” began in 2008 alongside the main water scheme. A broad spectrum of parallel literature from many disciplines was drawn upon to inform the research. Concurrent preliminary informal conversations with local residents and a number of field observations were helpful in refining and contextualising the research hypotheses regarding the determinants of residential satisfaction with the fit-for-purpose groundwater supply system in the context of water sensitive urban development.

An exploratory mixed method approach was adopted starting with qualitative preliminary interviews with local residents to inform the development of a survey instrument. This was followed by the administration of the survey questionnaires at household level to collect quantitative data to measure the relationship among variables and test a model of residential satisfaction. The survey data and the secondary data about residential water consumption were analysed to develop a workable model for residential satisfaction with and behaviour towards the dual water supply system and water sensitive urban environment. Finally, qualitative information during stakeholder interviews, meetings, and seminars was used to interpret the planning implications of the model and behavioural responses towards the water system and urban development.

The research results indicated that the majority of residents (70%) are satisfied with the nondrinking groundwater supply system in their home and neighbourhood. In “The Green”, the household drinking water consumption was reduced by 40% compared to the metropolitan average; however, excessive garden watering exemptions for new garden establishment caused 30% more water usage in “The Green” than the metropolitan average. This study found that the major components of residential environment satisfaction were the neighbourhood, neighbours, and home. Home satisfaction in “The Green” was determined mainly by home attributes and the garden satisfaction, which in turn was dependent upon garden attributes and satisfaction with the groundwater system. In this way, groundwater satisfaction had an indirect impact on home satisfaction mediated by garden satisfaction. The major determinants of groundwater satisfaction were: positive perceptions of operational issues, and risk of groundwater use (negative relationship), and preference for continuation of the groundwater system after its trial period.

The major research findings are explained in Chapter Six, Seven, and Eight. The dynamic nature of community attitudes and community behaviours towards the fit-for-purpose water projects at urban settings were explored, and the planning and development consequences of the implementation of the alternative water systems were explained. The results of this study are highly applicable for water providers, urban planners, and community developers in promoting the successful implementation as well as improvement of fit-for-purpose water systems from a policy perspective. This thesis equally contributes to building knowledge and understanding of residential satisfaction and its relationship to innovative dual water systems in water sensitive urban environments. It facilitates the sustainable management and planning of urban water resources. The research also demonstrates the need to integrate general models of community satisfaction with specific water system attitudes to provide an indication of the role of water supply systems in the overall success of water sensitive developments.

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