The ACT and Queanbeyan’s total water consumption has remained fairly consistent since 2012–13 at around 50,000 megalitres annually despite population growth. Between 2001–02 and 2017–18, residential per capita water use dropped from 124 kilolitres per year to 78 kilolitres litres per year, a decrease of around 37%. Residential supply is responsible for most of the water use in the ACT, accounting for around 60% of the total supplied annually.
Indicator assessment legend
Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.
Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.
Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.
Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.
Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus
Limited evidence or limited consensus
Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment
Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator
This indicator examines the consumption of potable water in the ACT. Whilst some groundwater is used in the ACT for non-potable water supply, it is a small resource compared with surface water, and current use does not represent a risk to groundwater resources. Therefore, the use and availability of groundwater resources is not included in this indicator.
Water consumption is determined by a range of factors including population, urban densification, changes in household usage, restrictions on use due to water availability, changes in demand due to rainfall, and water use by commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors (within consumptive entitlements).
Condition and trends
Potable water consumption in the ACT and Queanbeyan has remained fairly consistent since 2012–13, at around 50,000 megalitres per year (Figure HS35). This consistent use has remained despite population growth in the ACT of around 1.7% per year. However, usage in 2017–18 was 54,000 megalitres, the highest volume over the past 10 years. This increase has been driven by hotter and drier weather conditions and is not considered indicative of an increasing trend in water usage.
Figure HS35: Water consumption in the ACT by user, 2008–09 to 2017–18.
The consistency in total annual water use since 2012–13 has occurred due to a decrease in per capita water use (Figure HS36). Between 2001–02 and 2017–18, per capita water use dropped from 124 kilolitres per year, to 78 kilolitres per year, a decrease of around 37%. Although there are annual variations in annual per capita water use, the level has remained between 70 to 80 kilolitres per year since 2007–08. Reasons for the decrease in per capita consumption include:
- a significant cultural shift regarding attitudes to saving water in response to the Millennium Drought
- changes in landscaping to reduce irrigation
- the community understands and supports the importance of water conservation
- reduction in irrigated areas – smaller block sizes, larger houses and reduced outdoor space, less irrigation of playing fields and urban open spaces
- the shift towards urban densification has seen a transition away from freestanding single residential homes, which often have a garden
- water-sensitive urban design in buildings and developments
- water-efficient appliances and fittings, and
- the use of grey and rain water for irrigation has increased significantly (source: Icon Water).
Figure HS36: Annual per capita water use in the ACT, 2001–02 to 2017–18.
The ACT uses over 90% of the supplied water, with Queanbeyan using around 8% annually. Residential supply is responsible for most water use in the ACT, accounting for around 60% of the total supplied annually, which has remained consistent since 2008–09 (Figure HS35). This means that most gains in water use efficiency can be made at the household level. Non-residential uses typically accounted for between 20% and 25% of the total water supplied annually (non-residential usage includes the commercial and industrial sectors, city parks, hospitals and schools, and government buildings).