Australians worry about water bills yet continue to waste water, Oxfam study reveals

General, News, Organisation news article written on the 12 Jun 2013

More than half of Australians are so concerned about water prices, they would consider having no water access at certain times of day to keep their bills down, a new Oxfam Australia study has found.

But despite worrying about their rising household bills, more than a third of Australians admitted they still wasted water and took having clean, safe water for granted.

The survey of 1000 Australians examined attitudes to water to coincide with Oxfam’s Water Appeal, which is raising funds for the international aid agency’s water, hygiene and sanitation programs for people living in poverty.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the study found that Australians believed water should be a basic human right for everyone.

“It is no surprise Australians expect water to be available at reasonable prices, but we are very lucky to have clean, safe drinking water as one in nine people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water at all,” she said.

“In some countries, a family will survive for a day on the same amount of water we use to flush a toilet.

“Oxfam is working with communities around the world to provide sustainable sources of clean water and education about hygiene and sanitation practices.”

Highlighting just how unsafe water can be in other countries, the Oxfam survey also revealed more than a quarter of Australians had been sick overseas, with half of those illnesses caused by drinking unsafe water.

The majority of people who became sick from drinking dirty water overseas took one or two days off work to recover (46 per cent), and a further 44 per cent had to take between three days and a week of annual leave.

Dr Szoke said communities without access to clean water and sanitation lost many more work and school days than Australian travellers, given their water-borne diseases and infections kept recurring because they were forced to continue drinking dirty water.

In developing countries, where poverty is rife, more than 443 million school days are lost by children overseas because they are suffering water-borne diseases.

“Providing access to a sustainable source of clean water that women don’t have to walk hours to reach will change the lives of many families living in poverty,” Dr Szoke said.

To donate to Oxfam’s Water Appeal visit: