Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Honours

School

School of Natural Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Pierre Horwitz

Abstract

Australia's water resources over the next few decades, and most likely beyond, will be under increasing pressures as populations enlarge and as the amount of water per person becomes more limited from a decline in rainfall across much of the continent. Perth is considered lucky among most Australian cities when it comes to water resources, in that we have an extensive groundwater network that is readily accessible both for both private (wells and bores) and public (scheme water) supplies. However, this resource has also seen substantial declines over the last few decades resulting from declining rainfall and increased use. Although domestic users individually may have minimal impact on the groundwater, their cumulative impact may be far greater. At some stage we will need to understand the variety and complexities among this user group if we are going to manage water effectively, without having to raise the price beyond what an average family can afford -it is water after all, it can not be denied from those simply too poor. Understanding and trust needs to be built among a community of users if they are going to work together with resource managers through an understanding of the nature of the resource the need for restrictions and regulations. However, before we can develop such understandings we first need to develop an awareness of the perceptions that exist within this group, followed by understanding as to how it may influence their behaviour. To obtain a sample of such perceptions to groundwater resources, a qualitative study was designed to gain an insight into the broad range of perceptions that might exist within this community. An in-depth interview was developed and undertaken among a small community of users. The data obtained were analysed and coded according to a set of themes and issues that were present throughout the interviews. From here some discussions were presented about the potential meaning of such data and the implications it may have for management or behaviour modification campaigns (i.e. promoting water conservation behaviours etc.). A variety of commonly held perceptions existed for a number of themes. The majority of participants were aware of a decline in Perth's groundwater resources, with most attributing this to either overuse, particularly by irrigators, and or to a decline in rainfall. On the topic of property rights in water, most did not believe that individuals had ownership rights over groundwater, but rather it was a commonly owned resource, with many suggesting that government had the ultimate control in ensuring the resource is allocated equitably and sustainably. On the topic of recommendations for policy makers, many had suggested the ways in which we need to start obtaining new water sources, as opposed to the better management of our existing water supplies. However, many also suggested the education of groundwater users on such things as restrictions and why they have been put in place. Some of the main findings of most concern to resource managers are those relating to equity in regards to fees being applied to groundwater use, potential misconceptions, the expressed need for better education of groundwater users, the nature in which people appear more in favour of deflecting the issue than changing management and use and the lack of awareness as to who manages the groundwater and what their role is.

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