Increasing water scarcity and rising demand prompted the delivery of an innovative demand management program in the town of Gunbalanya, Northern Territory, led by Power and Water Corporation.

ISF was commissioned to help harness the combined power of smart meters and social research to appropriately design, efficiently monitor and successfully evaluate the demand management program.

Gunbalanya is an Aboriginal town located approximately 300km east of Darwin in Arnhem Land. The population of the town fluctuates between 900 in the dry season and 1,500 in the wet season.

The community experiences water shortages at the end of most dry seasons as the aquifer is dependent on seasonal recharge and unique aquifer characteristics prohibit higher extraction rates.

The approach highlighted that fixing leaks should be the primary focus for the program and determined which sectors and locations should be the focus. The social research provided important insights on cost-effective and long-term methods to address the leaks. Qualitative and quantitative findings of low per person water use also had important implications for community outreach.

Smart metering analysis during program implementation provided real-time feedback on whether demand management approaches were reducing water demand, which allowed for continual program improvement.

Implementation of the program was from October 2012 to November 2013 through a partnership between local and Territory governments and the Gunbalanya community. The partners included Power and Water Corporation, the NT Department of Housing, the West Arnhem Regional Council (WARC), and the NT Department of Community Services.

AWA Water Journal: Smart metering enables effective demand management design: A case study