Publication Details

Hurlimann, A. & Dolnicar, S. (2011). Voluntary relocation - an exploration of Australian attitudes in the context of drought, recycled and desalinated water. Global Environmental Change, 21 (3), 1084-1094.


Throughout history settlements have been abandoned due to lack of water. Such a fate is of concern to public officials in settlements facing water scarcity – a condition which is anticipated to increase due to the impacts of climate change, and other factors including increasing per capita water use, and population growth. Key questions surround how to best adapt to these circumstances. A strategy little explored is relocation. This paper presents results from a qualitative study conducted in eight geographically diverse Australian locations. The willingness of individuals to relocate under three hypothetical water scenarios was investigated: (1) if the water in their community ran out, (2) if recycled wastewater was put in their community's drinking water supply, and (3) if desalinated water was put in their community's drinking water supply. Results indicate that most people would not relocate if recycled or desalinated water was used to augment their community's drinking water supply, but they would if their water supply ran out. Our results highlight that while there is initial public opposition to the augmentation of existing potable water supplies with recycled or desalinated water, people would prefer these solutions, over being forced to move location. Respondents were highly aware of the social, economic and public infrastructure costs associated with relocation decisions. Relocation would therefore, for most, only be the very last option if their water demands could not be met. However, it was difficult for most to imagine the situation becoming so dire. Our results highlight the importance of a comprehensive and consultative approach to managing supply in water scarce locations.



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