Reducing nutrient enrichment of waterways through public education: a tale of two cities

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Eutrophication of waterways, expressed as excess growth of cyanobacteria, is frequently caused by excessive inputs of phosphorus. Human activities are often the origin of such nutrient enrichment and so many governments have addressed the issue by implementing a range of technological, legislative and biological measures. By contrast, Australia has taken a different approach and also relied heavily on public education. This paper compares the success of two of these ‘Phoswatch’ public education programmes. One campaign occurred within the Murray-Darling Basin in a country town called Albury-Wodonga. The other occurred within the Hawkesbury-Nepean Basin in the western suburbs of Sydney. The campaigns were evaluated using a series of community surveys and by monitoring phosphorus loads at a sewage treatment plant. The Albury-Wodonga campaign was the most effective of the two campaigns with increases in the number of people reporting a range of behaviours and these resulted in a decrease in phosphorus loads entering the local treatment plant. The comparison suggests that clear simple messages, a diversity of media exposure, and some form of feedback are critical to programme success. It is concluded that campaigns such as Phoswatch can provide a long term, cost effective way of addressing eutrophication by focusing on the problem at source and creating community support for an integrated strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number
Pages (from-to)351-358
JournalEnvironmental Conservation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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