Is there a role for intermediaries in the water sector in helping communicate water issues and water-saving measures to the general public?
The Plug-It project is developing tools that will enable trusted intermediaries (plumbers, retail store assistants etc) to assist people in making water efficient choices when they are purchasing or sourcing new kitchen and bathroom fittings and white goods, which is a ‘moment of change’ at which water efficient behaviour can be introduced or reinforced.
Our feeling is that while these professionals are currently well-equipped to advise their customers on aesthetics and price, they are not armed with the tools to provide information on the water efficiency of the same products, nor to explain effectively how small adjustments in individual behaviour with regards to water use can have a wider environmental benefit.
Water infrastructure is such that it is exceptionally difficult for a consumer to perceive either the amount of water really being used, or the impact of that use along the entire system. To tackle the issue from all angles requires not just new fixtures and fittings, but more knowledgeable consumers, changes of habits, professionals educated in sustainability and an industry that considers water efficiency measures among its core business.
How is PLUG-IT addressing this?
Through working closely with a sample group of retail store assistants and plumbers, the Plug-it project is using co-design – an innovative action-based research, design and engagement process – to generate a set of tools to enable them and their peers to better communicate these issues to their customers, and offer attractive ways to encourage pro-environmental purchasing choices and behaviour in the home and at work.
The project puts designers together with several key stakeholders in the water network – professionals, consumers and water companies – to design a training kit that will better equip public-facing ‘water professionals’ to advise their customers about the products and services that would enable more responsible consumption of water.
It will also evaluate the potential for a peer-to-peer network within the water industry to disseminate these skills and knowledge of sustainability among professionals, adding value to plumbers and the services they provide.
Who is involved?
Waterwise is working with the Seed Foundation (project lead), as well as the Policy Studies Institute, Southern Water, CIPHE, the Plum Centre and Wolseley on the Plug-it project. It is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) action-based research programme.