We helped launch the Purified Recycled Water (PRW) Discovery Centre, part of the PRW Demonstration Plant at Quakers Hill, to help turn the tide on weather dependency.
Did you know Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world? This makes clean drinking water a truly valuable resource, and it’s under increasing pressure due to rising challenges like climate change and population growth. Like many other cities, Greater Sydney relies heavily on rainfall, with 85% of its water supply coming from it’s 11 dams, including Warragamba. The other 15% comes from desalination.
Like others worldwide, the Greater Sydney dams are at the mercy of nature and weather conditions, which are becoming even wilder with climate change. During the 2018 to 2020 drought, Greater Sydney’s total water storage dropped by over 50% in 2.5 years. Add a growing population, it shows the huge need for water source diversification, which Sydney Water is already onto!
From drain to gain: recycling water for a water-secure city
So, what’s the solution? A greater mix of weather-independent water sources such as desalination and purified recycled water (PRW). According to Sydney Water, 80% of wastewater from Greater Sydney goes out to the sea after just one use. There is vast potential in carefully recycling this wastewater, something that’s been done all over the world.
People have been safely drinking purified recycled water for more than 50 years, and it’s currently being used in over 35 cities around the world. PRW offers a safe, efficient way to supplement the region’s water supply, and it isn’t affected by drought or weather conditions.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? However, recycled water faces a perception barrier in Australia. Some perceive it as having a ‘yuck’ factor or being unnatural. The real problem is simple – it’s a lack of understanding.
The irony is that PRW is exceptionally safe and clean as the treatment processes are able remove anything which has been added to the H2O molecule, so much so that minerals are added in during the process as it ends up too pure for us to drink. So, we know that it’s a critical part of the way forward, but how do we convince the skeptics? That’s where community consultation, tailored engagement and education come in. The secret weapon: the Quakers Hill PRW Discovery Centre, the first in NSW.
The ripple effect: winning hearts and minds with technology and trust
We started by making the centre as approachable and welcoming as possible. Our bespoke curved timber signage included both a welcome sign and Acknowledgement of Country sign. This was complemented with tailored PRW Discovery Centre signage at the main entrance and welcome area. We developed a customised booking system for visitors to book tours and sign in and also crafted a quiz to collect the vital pre- and post-tour perceptions to gauge the impact the tour is having on visitors.
After signing in, visitors are encouraged to dwell in the welcome area while waiting for others to join. For tailored education and engagement, we created a slide-and-reveal wall that cleverly showcases Greater Sydney’s water sources over time from the 1800s through to now. One tug of the slide reveals the population and their water usage during different times which shows how that has evolved over the years.
Another nifty education tool is our Area of Operations Map. Users can press one of three buttons (Desalination, Dams and Water Recovery Centres) to light up where these operate in the Greater Sydney area. This highlights the vast network already in operation and some of the challenges faced when managing water across this large and varied area.
The tour commences in the presentation room where visitor can check out a timeline displaying Sydney Water’s history including when the name Sydney Water came about! Visitors take a pew and are engrossed with captivating content about how Sydney Water is planning to secure Greater Sydney’s water supply for the future.
The next stop invites further technology and engagement. Water Connect is an interactive digital tactile demonstration game showing the natural water cycle, urban water cycle and how PRW fits into the future urban water cycle. There’s also the Water Options Card Game, which helps to educate people on the benefits and challenges of the different water source types. One game example: Which water source is the most cost efficient to build and run? The visitors then discuss which source they believe to be most efficient and why. As the oversized playing cards are flipped, they reveal the facts and efficiency scoring for each of the water sources. It’s the ultimate conversation starter – or should we say debate starter – and that’s why it’s such a great tool. It drives deeper thinking and faster learning for the visitors, especially about the benefits of PRW for Greater Sydney’s future.
Next up, is the most technical area of the tour: the treatment room. This is part of the PRW Demonstration Plant and houses the machines and technology in action. Visitors are shown graphically how PRW fits into the urban water cycle, through a visually engaging wall map. Next is the most essential graphic: the Process visual that shows and explains the three key, state-of-the-art technologies used in the Treatment Room to treat the water to drinking water quality. After this graphic, visitors can follow the process via floor decals around the room to see the machines used at each of the treatment stages. Towering above the visitors’ heads is a huge globe showcasing where PRW is being used worldwide. It even shows that NASA uses a form of recycled water at the space station!
For the final step in the journey, visitors can head into the foyer area to take a photo to show their support for PRW. They take a snap with their background of choice, it then joins a large digital mosaic. Visitors can scan a QR code to download the image to their phone or tablet. The tour ends with a short quiz which indicates to Sydney Water if the tour has changed visitors’ perceptions on the importance of PRW for a future bright Greater Sydney.
SERVING UP SMARTER EVENTS
The goal was to help Sydney Water engage and educate the community on PRW and why it’s critical to safeguarding the city’s future. It required busting myths and misconceptions and, crucially, building arguably the most challenging customer value: trust. That offers the foundation for advocacy and ripples of community change.
Our winning formula: we used technology and creativity to turn a complex educational mission into a fun, interactive, engaging experience that empowers people with facts, not fiction. We helped turn a water treatment centre into an ageless classroom and playground (…a safe one of course). Not only that but helped showcase the fantastic work Sydney Water and associated bodies are doing daily driving water innovation forward to secure a bright future for Greater Sydney.
Need to educate and entertain in your next event or campaign? Give us a chance to craft a deeper, more authentic experience to connect to your audiences. Hit here to start talking.