Publication Details

This article was originally published as Head, L and Muir, P, Changing cultures of water in eastern Australian backyard garden, Social & Cultural Geography, 8(6), 2007, 889-905.


Research into diverse cultural understandings of water provides important contributions to the pressing global issue of sustainable supply, particularly when combined with analysis of relationships between everyday household practice and larger sociotechnical networks of storage and distribution. Here we analyse semi-structured interviews with 298 people about their 241 backyards in the Australian east coast cities of Sydney and Wollongong, undertaken during the 2002-03 drought. Water emerged as an important issue in both consciousness and practice. In contrast to a number of other environmental issues which stimulate more polarised responses, a commitment to reducing water consumption was shared across the study population and manifest in a variety of changed practices. However these aspirations are in tension with the pleasure derived from water, and expressed desires for more watery environments. This work contrasts with and extends other studies that have emphasised the perceived separation between the modern home and the networks of production that sustain it. We argue that it is in the relationship between house and garden that people see, understand and participate in the network of water storage and distribution. Their active engagement with these processes enhances their capacity to manage and reduce consumption.



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