What Australia can Teach California About Drought Resilience

Despite some of the relief that El Niño has brought to southern California the last couple of weeks, California is still in it’s 5th year of drought and must prepare for an inevitably drier future. This means the parched Golden State must find fresh water sources and more efficient ways to use what little water can be found. In order to do so, California has been turning to Australia for solutions.

Australia suffered from one of the worst droughts in the country’s recorded history, spanning a horrendous 12 years from 1997 to 2009. During the “Millennium Drought”, the water levels from the southeast portion of the continent dropped to an all-time capacity of 25.6 percent before the drought finally ceased. The implementation of policies and programs along with water conservation technologies proved to be the perfect combination of solutions to keep the continent afloat. Incredibly, through these programs the country was able to reduce water demand per capita by almost 50 percent.

However, California cannot simply copy Australia’s list of technologies and apply them. The state has to analyze the applied lessons, and address them accordingly to each city and town. Californians have the potential to demonstrate the viable suitable alternatives to optimize efficiency and sustainable behaviors to lead the nation’s water transformation toward a more resilient future. Here are three of Australia’s most successful water conservation methods that can help the Golden State:

  1. Water Management Policies and Rebates

In the late 1980’s, the city of Melbourne passed legislation for an integrated government response in case of drought. As a result, a unified response from government agencies created a mixture of efforts focused on water restrictions, water pricing, public education, target setting and rebates that transformed the behavior of Adelaide and Melbourne residents. Based on gamification, the government also created incentives to get consumers conserve as much water as possible and increase awareness. Prior to the drought, the government also invested millions in infrastructure, including a pipeline that would deliver water over the mountains and a recycled water treatment plant.

  1.  Recycled Water and Water Reuse

Wastewater treatment plants in Western Australia originally started recycling water to remove solids and contaminents before it was released into rivers or the ocean. Today, this recycled water is used  to flush toilets, irrigate golf courses and crops fields, and is used in industrial processes. Citizens also carried the burden, and started investing in diversion devices and treatment systems that filter and disinfect greywater. By 2010, businesses and residents cut their water use to half of what it was in 1997 when the drought began.

  1. Green Technology

Once the drought escalated, The Green Building Council of Australia encouraged through rebates the use of waterless urinals such as Falcon’s Waterfree Technologies, dual-flush toilets, water-saving shower heads and rainwater tanks for new developments. Nowadays, developers are also required to provide specific services, such as cleaning water, in their green space.  Rebates for these water conservation devices are also available to most of Southern California, and as a  B Corporation Falcon is committed to providing free turn-key rebate processing to commercial customers interested in upgrading to our Hybrid and Waterfree Urinal Technologies.  If interested in receiving a free restroom audit, please contact Liam Dow at  LDow@falconwaterfree.com.

In order to make a more substantial transformation, California needs to change how they relate to water and their declining water supplies. What is remarkable about Australia’s conservation efforts is that even though the drought is over, Australians now consume significantly less water. Their lessons can provide direction for how California can move towards a more sustainable and drought resilient future despite the unpredictability of the weather.