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Barwon Water recently joined with the Birregurra community to celebrate the success of the first phases of the Birregurra Sustainable Communities – Water project, which has so far saved more than 11 million litres of water a year through leak detection and water efficiency.

The Barwon Water water efficiency team was in Birregurra on 21 May for an event at the Community Hall to thank the township and in particular a group of 39 property owners who signed up to be dedicated “Water Savers”.

The group actively tracked their household water usage and learnt how to be more water efficient inside and outside their homes. Barwon Water General Manager Customers and Community, Jo Murdoch, said the Birregurra Sustainable Communities – Water project started last summer with the installation of 400 digital meters at residences and businesses in the town.

The meters helped identify 36 leaks and Barwon Water is working with property owners to have them fixed, so far saving an equivalent of about six Olympic-sized swimming pools. At the same time, a new Water Savers group started actively tracking their household water use and learnt how to be more water efficient inside and outside their homes via ongoing engagement with Barwon Water.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the enthusiasm of our Water Savers who responded to the information about their water use positively and proactively, leading over time to average daily savings of about 40L per person compared to the rest of the Birregurra community,” Ms Murdoch said.

Some great examples included one household that reduced daily water consumption from 1,749L to 209L as the project progressed and another who brought their use down from about 1,200L to under 200L a day in the last week of the 12-week project. Ms Murdoch thanked the Birregurra community for partnering with Barwon Water on the unique place-based approach to water saving.

She also acknowledged members of Birregurra Community Group, Birregurra Sustainability, the Friends of the Barwon and Colac Otway Shire for championing the project. “I’d like to extend particular thanks to our Water Savers Group  who really embraced the Birregurra Sustainable Communities – Water project’s focus on behaviour change, leak detection and repair, and water efficiency measures,” Ms Murdoch said. “

Part of the Water Savers Group’s success was making it fun and building on the strong local connections that regional communities enjoy.
“Participants enjoyed being able to view data about their water use online, through their own personalised MyH2O Dashboard, at any time of the day or night.

A bit of friendly competition developed between participants to see who could save the most water. “We also invited Birregurra customers to share their best water saving tip during the month of March to be in the running to win a great prize.

“Soon we will be supporting the Birregurra community to participate in a ‘Living Laboratory’ concept, which will incorporate short exercises and trialling new water efficient products to help us determine the amount of water that can be saved for both indoor and outdoor activities; think shorter showers, garden irrigation techniques and rainwater tank to toilet or garden set-ups.

“This place-based approach to water efficiency and water saving shows what’s possible when council, community, business and school leaders partner with the local water corporation to save our precious resource.”

Other highlights of the project to date have included a free WaterAssist Home program to help fix water leaks, a Water Hero program with the Birregurra Primary School, exploring opportunities with businesses for using Class C recycled water and water efficiency tips and information.

Supporting customers to save water

Most leaks are easily fixed, but even a small water leak of 5L per hour can add up quickly over time. If not detected and repaired, this can result in water losses of 840L per week or 43,680L per year and an extra $90 on a customer’s water bill annually.

Ms Murdoch said that customers in Birregurra with leaks were booked into Barwon Water’s free WaterAssist Home program. “The program includes a home water use assessment and a reliable, affordable plumbing service to repair or replace inefficient water fittings valued at $360,”

Ms Murdoch said. “Offering customers the support they needed to save water has led to significant water savings.” In the first month of the digital meters being installed, some customers identified as having leaks turned out to be businesses with high water use, but Ms Murdoch said

Barwon Water was making support available to them too. “To help support our non-residential customers, our Business Water Grants are now available for businesses connected to drinking water,” Ms Murdoch said.

“Grants can be used for projects that improve water efficiency and/or achieve permanent water savings through substitution of drinking water, recycling of wastewater or other water efficiency improvements.”

The Birregurra Sustainable Communities – Water project is also exploring with the community opportunities to increase recycled water use for non-drinking purposes from its water reclamation plant.

Ms Murdoch said that Barwon Water is leaving no stone unturned to make better use of resources, reduce pressure on the potable supply and improve regional prosperity.

“Digital meters will likely play an important role in the future of water security and it’s important for us to explore new, innovative ways to help save and prolong our precious drinking water supplies.”

For further details on the Birregurra Sustainable Communities – Water project, visit www.yoursay.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/birregurra.

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