More expensive and paranormal spin from Canberra water utility ACTEW

Starting sometime in 2009 the Canberra water utility ACTEW ran a TV advertisement showing a large crowd of people carrying 10 litre buckets of water and tipping the water into Googong Dam – which was less than 50% full in 2009. I thought at the time, “..what a waste of our money pushing this propaganda on us”.

For some factual background here is a graph showing annual water consumption for the ACT – ACTEW reports by financial year which in Australia ends on 30 June.

Canberrans have responded well to Govt water restrictions as this graphic shows – from pre-restriction levels of about 63GL per year, consumption dropped to an average 52 for 2004-2007, then from 2008-2010 has averaged 44.5.

Canberra water consumption and rain

We have had a wet 2010 in eastern Australia (particularly late in the year) and many dams are overflowing, including ACT dams.

Airport rainfall for calendar 2010 is 840mm with two weeks to run. Mercifully we have been spared the 2009 “bucket” TV advert for months now.

However in recent weeks a new ACTEW TV advertisement has burst forth. I have tried to record the audio and I am pretty sure this is the gist – but may not be exact wording. Please correct me if I get a point wrong.

If anybody could possibly ask a six year old to record a video clip for YouTube – please send me a copy.

Here is my best recording of the words spoken.

“Last year we asked you to save 10 litres of water per day – and you did. Since restrictions began Canberrans have saved over 198 Gigalitres – which is a lot of buckets – and about the same amount of water we currently have stored in our dams. Your efforts together with recent rain mean we now have permanent water conservation measures in place. Which gives us flexibility and stops water wastage. So lets keep Canberra waterwise and save water for life.”

First some simple maths – lets say Canberra population is 330,000, each person (man, woman and child) saves 10lit per day = 3.3million litres per day. Times 365 days = 1,204,500,000 litres per year. This = 1.2045 Gigalitres – or 8.4GL total over the seven years the graphic shows Canberrans have been saving water.

Now I am not sure when water restrictions began but the above graphic suggest 2004 was the first financial year Canberra people seriously saved water. From the figures above the graphic – consumption averages over seven years at 48 GL 2004-2010 and subtracting from 63 we get 15GL savings per year which adds up to 105GL total savings. So I am puzzled at the TV adverts manic focus on the symbolic buckets which could at best only have saved 8.4GL over the seven years 2004-2010 – or a miserable 8% of actual total savings of 105GL.

I am also unclear where ACTEW get their wild statement that, “Since restrictions began Canberrans have saved over 198 Gigalitres..”

But however ACTEW get their 198GL number – they are making a wild claim linking the “bucket” TV Advert in viewers minds with the very significant figure of 198GL – equating 1.2GL per year from buckets with 198 which is near the 207GL that our dam system holds when full. What are these watermeisters smoking ?

Let’s take the adverts statements one at a time. My comments in CAPITALS.

“Last year we asked you to save 10 litres of water per day – and you did. CANBERRANS HAVE BEEN SAVING ON AVERAGE 12.5 TIMES THAT.

Since restrictions began Canberrans have saved over 198 Gigalitres – I HAVE NO IDEA HOW ACTEW GET THIS NUMBER 198GL.
which is a lot of buckets – FOR SURE – 19.8 BILLION BUCKETS.
and about the same amount of water we currently have stored in our dams. WHICH IS 207GL.

Your efforts together with recent rain mean we now have permanent water conservation measures in place. TOO WEIRD FOR ME TO INTERPRET – I NOTE “RECENT RAIN” SCORES TWO WORDS OUT OF 82 WORDS OF SPIN AND DISTORTION.

Which gives us flexibility and stops water wastage. SIMPLY SPIN – WATER IS WASTING TO SEA ALL AROUND THE NATION.


I can only conclude that this weird advertising message emerged out of a realization in ACTEW that public anger at continuing restrictions and high water charges – while flooding is obvious all around – might somehow result in the issue getting out of their devious control. Most water utilities I have ever examined waste much public money on media advertising – and I conclude this is mostly influence peddling so they can dominate media content on water.

6 thoughts on “More expensive and paranormal spin from Canberra water utility ACTEW”

  1. It appears that Canberra has had its wettest year on record with over 1100mm of rain, beating 1956 and 1974. However it’s such a fractured record with stations closing and records missing for stations, I wonder if anyone can confirm this?
    I have been able to go back to 1896 (Duntroon station – closed 1941) but there may be wetter years before this (eg 1890 was an extremely wet year).

  2. Figures up near 1100 are common in the southern and western suburbs and our yard has ~1070 which is 2km SE of Hall – but I think Canberra Airport where I assume records would be claimed – is only ~855 and looks like not topping the 977 there in 1974. A big gradient from west to east.

  3. I took the figure of 1100mm+ from weatherzone at:-

    I’m not familiar with Canberra stations but the airport (Site number: 070014) does seem a lot less than that given by weatherzone. Not sure from where weatherzone takes its measurements (Canberra Ap is mentioned). However 200mm+ seems a large difference.

  4. Ian, I see that Weatherzone station is Tuggeranong in the southern suburbs – where there is an AWS – not a very long record and the locality is closer to the Brindabella Ranges than the airport. An example of the well known “rain shadow” often seen on the eastern side of ranges – mentioned by Kandler – comment 2 in this thread

  5. Thanks, Warwick. That would explain it then.
    The BOM shows both, with Canberra Airport at 198mm for Dec and Tuggerang at 253mm for Dec (and only 7km apart).

    In Casino, a manual station and an AWS, both sited at the airport, are separated by only 300m. The manual can be up to 1C warmer than the AWS on a hot day.
    Needless to say, the manual is near a tarred road with buildings close by and the AWS is in a grassed oval with nothing within 40-50m.

    It makes a bit of a mockery that GISS can use the smoothing technique to cover 1250km when 300m can be so different in actual temperature (or 7km in actual rainfall).

  6. Warwick would it be too early to do another post on temperatures – gearing on for the ‘warmest decade everrrr’ record
    Catallaxy Files has a post up on the latest from Dr Hunt of the CSIRO

    A CSIRO scientist is warning authorities not to interpret floods in eastern Australia and snowstorms over Europe and North America as signalling the end of global warming.

    NASA research shows that 2010 is the hottest year on record.

    Barry Hunt, an honorary research fellow at the CSIRO’s Marine and Atmospheric Research unit, says global temperatures will continue to rise even if there is another cold snap.

    “Over the last century, the global mean temperature has gone up by 0.8 degrees [Celsius], and that’s the extent of the global warming, but at the same time, we also have natural climatic variation, and you don’t get one or the other, you get them both. They interact,” he said

    I left this comment:
    Fortuitously Dr. Don J. Easterbrook has a guest post today on
    his point is to answer the question of ‘which is the hottest year on record’, we need to look at a much longer time frame‒centuries and millennia.
    So where do the 1934/1998/2010 warm years rank in the long-term list of warm years? Of the past 10,500 years, 9,100 were warmer than 1934/1998/2010. Thus, regardless of which year ( 1934, 1998, or 2010) turns out to be the warmest of the past century, that year will rank number 9,099 in the long-term list.
    The climate has been warming slowly since the Little Ice Age (Fig. 5), but it has quite a ways to go yet before reaching the temperature levels that persisted for nearly all of the past 10,500 years.

    I know you like land temperatures and if we are forewarned perhaps we can get prearmed (or something)

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