Our group chose a Plumber Apprenticeship Training Scheme to combat one of the key driving factors of water security risks in the Aboriginal community of Mapoon – disparity and inequality in up-to-date plumbing equipment such as leaking pipes and taps.
We chose this as our solution as ultimately the group considered this idea to be most in line with the ethos of the scheme, ‘Engineering for PEOPLE Design Challenge’. The idea was a bottom-up, people-based approach that provided the Tjungundji people of Mapoon with an opportunity to fix their own problems. An opportunity they currently do not have as there are neither plumbers nor plumber training courses in or anywhere around Mapoon.
While 22% of households reported leaky toilets and showers, and one-third of all homes reported outdoor tap leaks, it took an average of six weeks for plumbers, goods, and other tradesmen to arrive in the community to fix reported problems due to the remoteness of the community.
The scheme would simultaneously fix the leaking plumbing and increase water literacy, two key drivers of the high-water consumption found in the group’s Discover & Define phase, according to a series of reports from the Remote and Isolated Communities Essential Services Project (RICES), A five-year research project that analysed how water was used in remote Australian communities. It found that total household water usage per day during the dry season (May to October) was 4.5x higher in indigenous communities than in non-indigenous communities, despite remote communities having a significantly lower, and less reliable water supply.
It also avoids top-down, restriction-based approaches which have been previously unsuccessful, and does not interfere with the cultural importance of water. Finally, the scheme actively engages the community, and the skills learned by any new plumber can be quickly passed on to family, friends, and the wider community.