Hybrid Water Cultures: implications for service relations with diverse water users in Sydney, Australia


  • Abby Mellick Lopes
  • Zoë Sofoulis




government water services, cultural diversity, cultural research, social practice theory


How do diverse communities encounter and respond to government water services? This paper explores shifting cultural dynamics of a diverse group of Mandarinspeaking migrants in Sydney, Australia and implications for services in the context of a research project with a major water utility. Significant challenges for water services in Australia were unpacked. The central challenge we explore in this paper is the validity of the operational category of the ‘average customer’ which had been relatively stable for Sydney Water for over a century. However, in the last 20 years, the culture of Australia has shifted away from Europe and toward Asia. Questions around communication, information sharing, governance and management, were provoked. The take up of our research in Sydney Water’s customer education and engagement strategies has fostered more diverse and inclusive representations and points to the value of nuanced social and cultural research in service design contexts.