Rainwater flushes all sorts of pollutants into Port Phillip Bay. During the warmer months, this is monitored by Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria, which provides daily water quality forecasts for beach users on its website and social media.
The aim is to help beachgoers make the right decisions about water-based activities when the weather is right, but the water isn’t.
What did we do?
EPA wanted to make its water safety communications more influential by drawing on the behavioural sciences, so it enlisted the help of Life Saving Victoria (LSV) and BehaviourWorks.
The first step involved understanding which water quality signs at the beach got the most attention (and the features within the sign receiving the most interest).
Participants in laboratory-based studies were shown a range of signs in different environments. Eye-tracking equipment was used to measure where they looked – and for how long.
The green and red areas on the image (right) are an example of the results. We discovered that signs with symbols (like smiley faces) got more notice than colours and arrows alone.
The signs that generated the most attention and recall got the nod and are now being used at all Lifesaver-patrolled beaches around Port Phillip Bay.
Lifeguards are also reinforcing the stay safe message.
“We really value the guidance and input into the type of social research we can do to evaluate and improve our work on the ground. BehaviourWorks has been great at working with us and our partners – making coordinated research with a range of organisations easy.” – Darren Cottam, Program Coordinator, Recreational Water Quality, EPA