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Posted by SASTA

on 10/06/2024

We all know water is important and that’s reflected in the Australian Curriculum, with students learning about the water cycle, how waterways work and can be impacted by human intervention, and water scarcity and security. Something we talk about in the water industry though is water literacy. So, what is water literacy? How water literate are we? And why does it matter?

What is it?

Water literacy broadly refers to knowledge about water services. From knowing the environmental source of your tap water at home, to the distribution network, water treatment process, wastewater network and process, and understanding the costs, energy, and resourcing involved in the whole process.

How water literate are we?

Last year the Water Services Association of Australia released their water literacy research that was completed nation-wide, creating a water literacy index and benchmark data for water utilities. The research was gathered in an 18-minute survey with 7,503 participants. Questions covered a wide range of water knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour.

Research found the average water literacy score was 57 out of 100, based on the new index. Broken down more locally, the average water literacy score for South Australian customers was also 57. Interestingly, the lowest knowledge areas were the perceived likelihood of drought and desalination. That surprised me, given we are in the driest state in the country and desalination was brought in to combat water scarcity during the last drought. Our strongest area was the knowledge of the impact of fats and oils on our sewer system; namely that it is costly to unblock and repair wastewater networks impacted by fats, oils, and other inorganic matter such as wet wipes.

Mount Gambier High School 2

Why does it matter?

It’s been said that the next global conflict will not be over oil or land, but over access to water. We have the same amount of water we’ve always had on Earth, but we’re needing to stretch it further. With a growing global population, increasing demand on the myriad ways we use water (in agriculture, manufacturing, consumptive use, and environmental water), and climate change affecting water systems, water feels more precious today than ever before.

We all know, when we understand something, we value it. Water literacy helps our community value and conserve our precious natural resources.

Glenelg WWTP tour Nov 2023 3Water literacy with SA Water

SA Water’s education program is called The Well. It’s designed to provide students from pre-school to university with valuable insight into the ways we manage and deliver water services to more than 1.8 million South Australians.

You can join our education and subject matter experts on a tour of a treatment plant, dive into an interactive workshop or presentation, or simply tap into some of our targeted educational materials.

The Well gives life to the story and value of water in our community and day-to-day lives through genuine, firsthand knowledge from the people who understand it better than anyone.

All programs and resources have been designed to align with the Australian Curriculum and are free of cost.

Check out our website to learn more:

Jade Cornish
Education Specialist
SA Water