The Modelling the Uptake of Water Conservation and Efficiency Measures in Sydney report team worked with Sydney Water’s WaterFix Program to validate their agent based, decision-making model aimed at encouraging consumers to participate in water saving programs.
Customer behaviour plus the development and adoption of water efficient appliances were identified as the two biggest uncertainties in estimating long-term demand for water. The team used data from the WaterFix program collected during the Millennium Drought (2001-2009) and applied it to their model, replicating Sydney householder decision-making at the time. The modelling is hoped to contribute to future water supply resilience for Sydney at a time of declining dam inflows and increasing population.
The project has demonstrated the benefits of Agent-based Model (ABM) in understanding the implications of different policy setting in increasing the adoption of water conservation actions. In comparison to more traditional water demand models, the ABM can explore system leverage points and scenarios, as well as describing the complex behavioural responses across the community. The ABM approach is not as data intensive as other water demand modelling approaches so it can allow for rapid prototyping to assess water conservation policy options.
The approach demonstrated in this project can provide a useful approach for the water sector in targeting investment in their water conservation programs by improving institutional capacity to evaluate likely impacts of different policy options. The emergence of big data, from the widespread uptake of smart meters and the ‘internet-of-things’, creates an opportunity to develop ABMs that simulate individual responses to water conservation programs.
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Adoption of water conservation measures is one-way water utilities and community are able to reduce the demand on finite water resources by a growing population, and adaptively manage the impacts of episodic droughts. To deliver effective and least cost water conservation programs in the future, utilities need to better understand what drives people’s choices to adopt or not adopt water-wise behaviours, technologies and services.
The Millennium Drought across Australia during the 2000s placed cities under pressure in providing urban water security. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, a comprehensive water demand programme triggered a significant reduction in per capita water consumption. The water demand programme included incentives for the installation of rainwater tanks.
This technical report presents a series of research projects funded by the Low Carbon Living (LCL) CRC, the CSIRO and agencies such as Sydney Water, Sustainability Victoria and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage have been developing and piloting an Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) approach to better understand the decisions made by community members when they are presented with a range of resource conservation products and services, or are selecting resource consuming appliances and fixtures.