Blog Post: Tuesday January 23, 2018

Why consider people and communities in water efficiency?

A strategic approach to delivering more ambitious water efficiency is needed to help ensure enough water for people, the economy and the environment, now and in the future.

UK expert body Waterwise has launched its Water Efficiency Strategy for the UK. The strategy sets out an ambitious blueprint for a water-efficient UK – where water is used wisely, every day, everywhere, and this helps to tackle the very real challenges of climate change and environmental degradation we face now and in the future.

Waterwise is the leading UK authority on water efficiency and well-known in the sector for driving ambitious actions and innovative thinking on water efficiency. The strategy will help all of us aim high on water efficiency.

Governments and regulators across the UK have said they want to see more ambitious water efficiency, to meet the needs of people, the economy and the environment in the face of climate change, population growth and new ways of using water. The recent Water UK report also showed that there will be more frequent, longer and more acute droughts in future than had previously been thought – right across the UK.

Governments and regulators across the UK have said they want to see more ambitious water efficiency.

Water efficiency requires people and communities to get on board in one way or another. All the technological improvements in the world could not solve the problems of water inefficiency if people still wasted large quantities of water. It is important to make the distinction between water usage and water wastage.

We need water for our daily activities: it is an essential part of life, which is why it is so important that we waste as little as possible.

At Waterwise we are interested in how community approaches could improve on existing methods of customer engagement. The communities we are part of – our various groups of belonging can be regional, religious or interest-based, to name a few – strongly influence the way we think and act in everyday life. We also wonder about the term ‘customer’ – it is not only customers, the bill-payers, that need to know how and why they should reduce water usage where they can.

The financial incentive to save water is limited, and the value of water must be expanded to encompass the values that people do hold dear.

Clearly, the financial incentive to save water is limited, and the value of water must be expanded to encompass the values that people do hold dear – beautiful water bodies, ecological conservation and access to a clean and reliable water supply for all, for example. A detailed analysis of these approaches and more will be included in Waterwise’s Behaviour Change Handbook. (Contact us if you’d like to sponsor this – it’s going to all UK water companies!)

If we are to influence the way people use water, we need to understand how and why they use water the way they do.

Data collection is also key – if we are to influence the way people use water, we need to understand how and why they use water the way they do. Waterwise collects this information via the annual tracker survey, which surveys attitudes and perceived water usage in the home, and the Great British Water Watch, which encourages home water use monitoring as a form of citizen science. The handbook will also have a whole section on monitoring and evaluation of behaviour change and engagement programmes, to upskill the water sector and give the sector confidence in using innovative approaches.

The Water Efficiency Strategy for the UK sets out key recommendations and actions to support behaviour change and greater customer engagement and participation linked to water efficiency. These include setting up a Water Efficiency and Customer Participation Leadership Group; undertaking more research on developing a water-saving culture and a national water efficiency communication platform; and increasing the scale and quality of integrated behaviour change and home. Waterwise is a key supporter of all of these actions and we encourage you to get in touch if you have innovative ways to improve the way water companies and others engage with water users on water efficiency.

The Water Efficiency Strategy for the UK is a great opportunity to deliver more ambitious water efficiency in partnership – building on work to date.