One of the major challenges of moving toward more sustainable and water sensitive futures is to change people's everyday water consumption habits. The experience of the Millennium drought in Australia (1996–2010) and water restrictions introduced during that time intervened to change everyday water practices in specific ways creating durable change in some practices and mutable change in others. Drawing on focus groups with 62 people, in three diverse Australian cities, a rich picture of diverse water practices emerges. Using a specific social practice framework we explore the key practices of garden watering and showering and tease out the elements in each – we discuss how and why there has been more innovation and change in garden practices than shower practices. We argue that sustained water restrictions drive material change in households and these material changes appear to be more effective in changing water use than transforming water saving competencies or meanings alone. Further, we show that the commitment and resistance to water saving has a spatial context – data from three different cities allowed us to see how location, climate and policy responses interweave with everyday practices. The implication of our research is that policy interventions should be 'fit for purpose' according to social practices in spatial context.

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Last updated: 28th Sep 2017