Enhancing Domestic Water Conservation Behaviour: A review of empirical studies on influencing tactics

URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479719309272

This paper, published in 2019, is a great summary of what works and under what conditions, based on a review of empirical studies about Behaviour Influencing Tactics (BITs) for domestic water conservation. The BITs are: knowledge transfer, self-efficacy, social norms, framing, tailoring, emotional shortcuts, priming, & nudging. The literature suggests that a conjunctive use of a variety of BITs into overall strategy is required. Repetitive messages, primes, and nudges that reinforce previously introduced normative messages, tailored feedback, and knowledge, seem to be promising approaches to sustaining water conservation behaviour in the long run.


The world faces imminent drought-related challenges that, from a tap-water supply perspective, require increasingly expensive infrastructure enhancement and energy expansion to maintain sufficient service levels. This paper argues that enhancing domestic water conservation provides a promising alternative or necessary addition to reduce costs and to stimulate pro-environmental behaviour. Although the number of field experiments on how people's behaviour can be changed with respect to their daily water consumption is growing, to date, most studies in this field have focussed either on explanatory socio-economic factors (e.g. water pricing, income, or family composition) or behavioural intentions and personal characteristics related to behavioural change. Accordingly, there is limited empirically validated knowledge about the use and effectiveness of different influencing tactics to change behaviour. This paper provides a review of the empirically oriented literature in this field and aims to provide an up-to-date assessment that identifies eight different Behavioural Influencing Tactics (BITs) that target long-term water conservation behaviour within households. Our analysis is structured around three information processing routes: the reflective route, the semi-reflective route, and the automatic route. We conclude that the current body of literature is promising and provides a useful body of evidence on the range and effectiveness of individual water conservation mechanisms, but that needs further development to deepen our understanding of how to effectively prolong and reinforce newly formed water conservation routines.

Topics: Environment:, Water efficiency, Climate change adaptation
Resource Type: strategies and interventions
Publisher: Elsevier: Journal of Environmental Management
Date Last Updated: 2021-07-22 09:29:45

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