21 October 2022

Icon Water partners with Questacon to tackle the 'flush and forget' mindset

| Dione David
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School child using a virtual reality headpiece at Questacon during Water Week

A seven-minute virtual reality experience is the centrepiece of Icon Water’s Water Week activation at Questacon. Photos: Liv Cameron.

Empathy and good old-fashioned shock and awe will play major roles in Icon Water’s upcoming Water Week activation at Questacon.

Running until 23 October, the theme for this year’s National Water Week is “Our Water Stories” – and in Canberra’s case, the stories behind wastewater need to be told most.

“We really want to show people that flushing a problem doesn’t make it go away,” Icon Water customer engagement general manager Davina McCormick says.

“There’s always someone on the other end dealing with it.”

READ ALSO Icon Water releases a game to flush-away wastewater problems

Part of Icon Water’s behaviour change campaign, the activation comprises two main components in Questacon’s Q-Lab – a relaunch of Icon Water’s popular Free the Poo tablet game and a virtual reality experience.

Last year’s launch of Free the Poo was celebrated for making the hidden world of wastewater accessible to younger audiences.

In the game, so-called “flushable” wipes play the role of the baddie – and so they should.

More akin to fabric than paper, most flushable wipes do not break down as needed in our sewerage systems and become the root cause of major blockages that cost big bucks to correct.

Throughout the week, Questacon will be conducting experiments around water, but from Thursday (20 October) the piece de resistance will be Icon Water’s virtual reality experience.

Created by a local indie developer, Lightning Rock, the seven-minute experience combines interviews, videos and audio captures to demonstrate what Icon Water’s “Blockage Busters” must endure in the field as they clean the sludge holding tank.

Their job in the wastewater facility is removing those things that should not be flushed.

Ms McCormick says it’s “probably one of the most difficult jobs in Canberra – and definitely the dirtiest”.

“They have to do this job because wet wipes disrupt the treatment process,” she says.

“They have to pull apart the huge clumps of wet wipes by hand and feed it into a hose to remove everything from the tank.

“It’s a physically gruelling task. They’re in the tank for hours at a time – often taking breaks by just sitting against the tank wall.”

READ ALSO ‘Free the poo’ plea as Icon tackles wet wipe menace

Using a camera with eight lenses, the virtual reality experience immerses participants in this horrendous work, hinging on the psychology of empathy to instil the message – don’t “flush and forget”.

“The experience depicts each stage of the cleaning process – climbing inside, pulling apart the blockages, hosing the tank, climbing out and getting hosed down,” Ms McCormick says.

“We have voice-overs from some of the guys in the tank and an interview with one of them at the end.

“We created this experience to shed some light on Canberra’s unsung heroes doing the dirty work no one wants to think about.”

A child on a tablet playing Icon Water's Free the Poo game

Icon Water’s Free the Poo game makes the hidden world of wastewater accessible to younger audiences.

Icon Water’s Water Week activation kicked off on Monday (17 October) at Questacon’s Q-Lab with a relaunch of its Free the Poo game and will run until Sunday (23 October).

The virtual reality experience will be available from Thursday (20 October), with Icon Water staff available to answer questions and facilitate the experience.

Those unable to attend can access the Free the Poo game on PC here, Android devices here and Apple devices here. Otherwise, book your Questacon visit here.


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