- freely available
Water 2018, 10(11), 1510; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10111510
- Conserve water;
- Substitute potable water with alternatives sources;
- Augment existing supplies.
- Awareness and familiarity: how can you make people be aware of and familiar with water conservation practices? To what extent does this translate into consideration of water conservation behaviors? The consideration here is the active choice whether to undertake a particular behavior.
- Adoption: once water conservation practices are “on the radar”, what makes people consider and adopt them?
- Persisting: once people have adopted water conservation practices, to what extent will they persist with this behavior?
2. Scope and Method of Paper
- “Water conservation” and Urban
- “Rainwater harvesting” and “water saving”
- “Irrigation”, “water saving” and urban
- “Smart meter”, feedback and “water saving”
- Tariff, metering, urban and water
- Media, water, conservation, urban and awareness
- Water, conservation, urban and “public awareness”
- “Water conservation” and psychology
- Awareness, “water conservation” and urban
- Awareness, “water demand management” and urban
3. Awareness and Familiarity with Water Conservation Behaviors
4. Influences on the Choice to Conserve Water
4.1. Contextual Factors
4.2. Price and Restrictions
4.3. Household Characteristics
4.4. Inconvenience and Impracticality
4.5. Attitudes and Social Norms
5. Persisting with Water Conservation Behaviors
- There is a close correlation between stated intention in 2005 and the self-reported behavior in 2017, beyond what we would have expected. We interpret this to mean that stated intentions take time to be realised due to limits on resources—time, effort, knowledge, and capacity etc. However, over time, if motivational drivers remain, the stated intentions will largely be translated into behavior through a process of diffusion.
- We do however also note that two types of behavior where there appears to have been a bounce-back effect, i.e., only using washing machines when they are full, and turning the tap off while brushing teeth. We interpret this to mean that when opting out is easy, and when there is an effort and/or cost involved with persisting with the behavior, some of the households will opt out over time.
- We also note that the appliance stock has changed significantly over the period, with front-loading washing machines (previously considered a proxy for water-efficient appliances in Australia) increasing their proportion of the stock from 16% to 37%. This uptake of more water-efficient appliance stock will definitely lead to reduced water demand.
6. What Has Worked in the Past?
7. What May Work in the Future?
7.1. Smart Metering as a Tool for Individualized Behavior Change Prompts
- Understanding individual end-use profiles, including the potential for water savings in changed behavior, changed appliances and fixing leaks . This has the potential to be the basis for individual messages to households, providing advice which is specific to circumstances.
- Using smart meters to enable more nuanced pricing structures, although this has already been explored by various agencies and researchers [50,73,78]; there is a need for further exploring how price structures, individual commitments to water conservation and information feedback can increase the effectiveness of policies in a fair manner.
7.2. Targeted Messaging for Specific Customer Cohorts
7.3. Nudging for Encouraging Broad Customer Change
- How the decision to conserve water is being presented to community members.
- The cognitive effort of making choices, i.e., make choices easier to understand.
- The consumer funnel, which dictates that you may only make a decision if you are aware of a choice and if you are triggered into action by some event.
- Focusing on defaults, i.e., people are more likely to choose a pre-selected option.
- Understanding the broader set of attributes that people may consider when deciding to conserve water, especially in relation to factors such as effort and social norms.
- Rebound effects, i.e., what makes people choose to opt out of water conservation behaviors. In consumer and marketing theory, this loyalty aspect of purchases is critically important, and it should also be important for water conservation theory.
8. Research Needs
- There is a need for longitudinal studies of water conservation behaviors to better understand the impacts of enablers (such as awareness and motivational drivers) and barriers (effort and costs). Well-designed longitudinal studies will finally allow researchers to distinguish causality from correlation. This also needs to be done with a control sample to understand relative savings  because absolute savings in any one year will not prove useful as they do not account for other contextual factors such as climate or imposed restrictions which can vary significantly.
- The research around how to best promote water conservation is still not well developed including on which communication tools to use, how to frame and target messages, and how the success is influenced by trust in the information source, etc. These issues and questions were raised already by Syme in 2000 but some aspects in how information is best communicated appear to still require further research .
- To enable the capacity for nudging significant change in water conservation behavior through identifying strategic interventions and triggers, there is a need to further understanding of how state of the art behavioral science in the planning and evaluation of water conservation programs, along the lines of that by Moglia et al. .
Conflicts of Interest
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|Self-Reported Behavior 2005||Stated Intention 2005||Self-Reported Behavior 2017|
|Use half flush button on the toilet||13%||62%||62%|
|Use the washing machine only when full||21%||86%||56%|
|Take shorter showers||29%||58%||57%|
|Reduce garden watering||13%||44%||50%|
|Turn the tap off while brushing teeth||18%||92%||72%|
|Front-loading washing machine (a proxy for water-efficient appliance)||16%||N/A||37%|
|Type of Program||The Estimated Range of Savings|
|Public awareness/media campaigns (2–20%)|
|Public awareness campaigns, e.g., media broadcasts ||2–5%|
|Public awareness and media campaign during a drought in Barcelona ||21%|
|Providing simple procedural information to households on how to achieve water conservation in a small study in Queensland, Australia ||16%|
|Media attention during drought, i.e., ~100 articles bimonthly ||11–18%|
|Information and media campaign during drought ||11%|
|Implementation of water use restrictions, and reductions in the household and network leakage in the UK ||14%|
|A review of the evidence for the effectiveness of awareness campaigns reports results of 5–20% reduction but notes that the contextual factors and design of the awareness campaign are of critical importance ||5–20%|
|Metering linked with pricing mechanism (−16–56%)|
|In an 8-year study in Aurora, Colorado, metering linked with a block-based tariff found that people, in fact, used 16% more water than before, presumably because of the being better able to control not going into a higher block ||−16%|
|Implementing a dynamic tariff system and using smart meters in Valencia, Spain has provided considerable water savings ||Up to 18%|
|Metering residential water use and charging on a per unit basis in several cases in the US, excl. limited metering ||10–56%|
|Metering residential water use and moving from a flat rate to volumetric pricing ||15–31%|
|Smart Metering feedback of information to householders (3–20%)|
|Real-time feedback on water use, via meters ||3%|
|Public awareness promoted using smart water meters in Copenhagen ||20%|
|In Dubuque, the US, a study of the water conservation effects of an online water portal providing near real-time feedback to households based on smart metering information there were measurable water savings||7%|
|Public goal setting combined with installation of smart meters to provide feedback to households, in Zaragoza, Spain ||5%|
|Smart metering intervention providing detailed feedback on household water use, in the context of Australia ||8%|
|Smart metering feedback of information to households ||7%|
|Synthesis of a range of smart metering feedback studies ||6%|
|A review by Sønderlund et al.  found that the amount of water savings based on providing feedback on water consumption to households varies considerably (3–54%), with average water savings of 20%||20%|
|Water-saving/efficient devices (12–80% depending on type)|
|Residential retrofit program in Sydney provided considerable population level savings ||12%|
|Adoption of rainwater harvesting, in the context of Australia ||Up to 80%|
|Use of rainwater found to be able to meet a large proportion of household demand in the context of Melbourne, Australia ||40%|
|Retrofitting water-efficient devices ||50%|
|Water-efficient washing machines were found in a metering study to provide significant water savings to individual households in the Gold Coast, Australia ||15%|
|Water-efficient shower heads were found in a metering study to provide high levels of water savings to individual households in the Gold Coast, Australia ||19%|
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