Water Resources

Topic Editor:
Robin Grantham

Southwest Florida Water Management District

Around the world, professionals are exploring a variety of alternative water supplies. However, the reality is that we also need to focus on changing individual water conservation behaviours involved in gardening, farming, using our washrooms, washing our clothes and dishes, and so on.  More  


Latest News

January 9, 2024  |  Six New Topic Resources Added 
We've added six new water-related Topic Resources this past year. You can access and read summaries of them at the top of the right hand column below. They provide guidance on program development, messaging, boosting progam referrals, on-bill feedback, and the use of water reports during droughts.

Most Recent Water Efficiency Case Studies

Landmark Case Study Southern Nevada Water Authority's Water Smart Landscapes Program  Environment

As climate change leads to more drought situations, it will be important to understand how to best promote water conservation. Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Water Smart Landscapes (WSL) program pays homeowners to replace their non-native, ornamental lawns with plants and landscapes that use less water because they are better adapted to their dry climate. It is one of the longest running “cash for grass” policies. Designated a Landmark case study by our climate change peer review panel in 2022.

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Landmark Case Study Day Zero: Cape Town Includes Fear Appeal to Avoid Running Out of Water  Environment


Fear appeals must be carefully considered as they can too-easily backfire and discourage people from taking in and acting on our messages. And why spread fear unnecessarily? This case study illustrates an appropriate and effective use of a fear appeal to reduce water consumption in Cape Town South Africa. It tracks 30 years, from the time the City predicted severe water shortages to the point where the taps nearly ran dry and this city of four million people reduced water use enough to avoid disaster. Designated a Landmark case study in 2021.

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Landmark Case Study WaterSense Adds Up to Big Water and Energy Savings  Environment

WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeks to protect the future of the nation’s water supply by offering Americans a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, homes, and services. WaterSense labeled products, which are independently certified to use at least 20% less water and perform as well or better than standard models, have been on the market since 2007. As of 2021 there are more than 30,000 labeled models, including products used in residential and commercial bathrooms, and outdoor irrigation. EPA’s WaterSense program has also certified over 3,000 homes with WaterSense labeled fixtures and water-efficient features. By 2020 it had saved 5.3 trillion gallons of water and 603 billion kWh of electricity. Designated a Landmark case study by our Building Energy peer review panel in 2021.

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Landmark Case Study Burlington’s Ice Rink Energy Competition  Environment

The City of Burlington's Ice Rink Energy Competition employs a low cost, easily replicable approach to significantly reduce energy consumption, associated greenhouse gases (GHG) and energy costs. A friendly competition to reduce energy at eight of the city's ice rinks helps change behaviours among staff and users, improves facility performance, and extends equipment life without sacrificing facility service levels or user satisfaction. Designated a Landmark case study in 2013.

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Barrie Water Conservation Program  Environment

The City of Barrie, Ontario has deferred millions of dollars in waste water and water supply capital expenditures with its retrofit water conservation program. The City supplied subsidized ultra low flow toilets, showerheads and aerators to Barrie residents over a two-year period.

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Landmark Case Study Shower Feedback in Switzerland  Environment

The Shower Feedback program provides households with real-time feedback on one specific, energy-intensive behaviour: showering. Participants receive smart shower meters that display feedback on the individual’s energy and water consumption in the shower in real time. On average, participants cut their shower time by an average of roughly 20%, which reduced related water and energy consumption by about the same amount. This program was designated a Tools of Change Landmark case study in 2016. 

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Familles à énergie positive  Environment

France's multi-year "Familles à énergie positive" program uses peer support groups (eco-teams) to reduce residential energy and water consumption. During the 2014/2015 period, participants reported an average 12% reduction in energy consumption, saving 8,500,000 kWh overall. Between 2008 and 2016 it engaged 90,000 individuals in 36,908 participating households.

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Cool Choices  Environment

Since 2010, Cool Choices has inspired employees to embrace sustainability through an innovative game model. Organizations in sectors as diverse as commercial construction, health care, manufacturing, U.S. primary and secondary schools, and law have had game participants save hundreds of thousands of dollars and avoid tons of pollution annually because of sustainable choices made in Cool Choices games. Post-game independent evaluations have found statistically significant savings in energy (median electrical household savings of 6%) as well as savings in water usage - with the vast majority of sustainable practices continuing a year later.

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Southwest Florida Management District's "Skip a Week" Yard Watering Campaign  Environment

This "Skip a Week" yard watering campaign used a combination of mass media and norm appeals  to overcome misconceptions about the amount of water required for healthy yard plants and to reduce yard water use. It resulted in an estimated 1.2 billion gallons of water saved during the four month campaign, at a cost of $0.60 per thousand gallons.

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Water - Use It Wisely  Environment

Water Use It Wisely has become one of North America's most widely implemented, branded water conservation programs, with over 350 private and public partners, including corporate sponsors such as Lowes and The Home Depot. It illustrates a wide range of promotional tactics and strong partnership development, and is available for use throughout North America.

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Be Water Wise. It Makes Cents  Environment

To promote water efficiency and reduce water consumption, residents were offered home visits conducted by trained volunteers and the opportunity to obtain discounts on home water-saving devices.

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WaterSmart  Environment

To reduce peak period water consumption and increase awareness of the need to conserve water, a program involving watering restrictions, bicycle patrols and student exercises was implemented in Kamloops, British Columbia.

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Green$aver  Environment

Green$aver provides home energy efficiency assessments and retrofit services in metropolitan Toronto. These assessments are conducted using Canada's EnerGuide for Houses system, which rates the overall energy efficiency of houses, identifies priority areas for improvement, and measures post-retrofit energy savings. Green$aver charges its customers a fee for its services, and it is trying to become a self-sustaining business. Work-based marketing approaches are being piloted, to promote Green$avers services to employees of local partner organizations.

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Water-Efficient Durham  Environment

The Regional Municipality of Durham targeted neighbourhoods with high summer peak water use, and convinced most residents to sign a written pledge to water their lawns in accordance with municipal guidelines. The program has consistently reduced peak water use in targeted neighborhoods by 30% at first, then leveling off at around 17% after a year. It cost $19 per household in 2004 and is considered to be 1/5 the cost of the alternative - which is to expand the water supply infrastructure.

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Sustainable Okotoks  Environment

Unprecedented steps were taken by the Town of Okotoks, Alberta to ensure its long-term sustainability. The community devised a sustainable development plan that rests on four guiding principles: environmental stewardship, economic opportunity, social conscience and fiscal responsibility.

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Most Recent Water Efficiency Resources

On-Bill Feedback Lowers Water Use, but Not Email Feedback  Environment

This large-scale field randomized control trial found that feedback using per household comparisons achieved statistically significant reductions in consumption, but per capita comparisons had no effect. Of the groups receiving per household comparisons, the ones offered water-saving tips and free water-saving gadgets yielded the largest estimated reduction. The feedback was effective when provided in paper bills but not when provided by email.

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U.B.C. Campus Sustainability Engagement and Social Marketing Strategy - Review of Related Research and Similar Programs  Environment

This 2013 literature review summarizes behavioral barriers, benefits and interventions related to campus / institutional energy, water and waste-related behaviors.


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Social and Behvior Change for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene  Environment

This USAID technical brief lays out the process for developing Social and Behavior Change (SBC) programs in support of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and water resources management (WRM) objectives and provides examples of country implementation and key considerations applicable to both WASH and WRM. Read More »

Boosting Program Referrals Using Reciprocity and Convenience  EnvironmentSafety

This field experiment with 7,680 low-income homeowners boosted referral rates, new participant numbers, and progam cost-effectiveness. It achieved this with two changes to a program that was already running. (1) It offered, in addition to the program's standard financial incentive, a non-contingent token gift upfront with a reminder about the programme, to evoke a sense of reciprocity. (2) It simplified the referral process by providing a mailable referral slip with a stamped return envelope.

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Promoting Persistent Behaviors to Reduce Water Use in the Absence of Volumetric Pricing  Environment

The authors discuss how they used Feedback and Building Motivation, Engagement and Habits Over Time to reduce water use by 15-25% in an affluent community in India that had flat-rate pricing. The effects persisted for more than a year, after which marginal pricing was introduced.

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Incorporating Home Water Reports to Minimize Home Water Use During Droughts  Environment

This open access study used a large-scale framed field experiment to evaluate the short- and long-run effects of Home Water Reports on water usage during drought conditions.

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Messaging Tips for Promoting Green Behaviors  Environment

Two open-access articles in Behavioral Science & Policy (7: 2) provide guidance on crafting messages to promote green behaviors. The first argues that interventions will be most effective if they not only make it easier for people to act (as behavioral science suggests) but also highlight moral reasons for taking action and assure people that their actions make a difference. The second outlines how to implement behavioral interventions that avoid crowding out support for deeper action. 

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Resources for Those at the Intersection of Behavior and the Environment  Environment

This page highlights RARE's resources for those at the intersection of behavior and the environment.

  • Behavior Change Interventions in Practice: A Synthesis of Criteria, Approaches, Case Studies, and Indicators.
  • The Science of Changing Behavior for Environmental Outcomes: A Literature Review.
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Road Signs Plus Mailings Reduce Lawn Watering: The rain-watered lawn  Environment

 This pilot with control group found that households watered more conservatively than with water restrictions alone if they were also informed of recent rainfall totals.

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Getting Your Feet Wet  Environment

A downloadable social marketing guide for watershed programs (2006)

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Program Impact Attribution  EnvironmentHealthSafety

This document provides a brief summary of options for assessing what portion of any measured behavior changes resulted from your program and what portion resulted from other influences. These options can also be used to attribute the affects of your program on a wide range of related variables such as resources used, pollutants released, accident rates and health status.

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Impact of Comics vs Photographs on Knowledge, Attitude and Behavioural Intentions  EnvironmentHealthSafety

This 2017 study compares two modes of visually presenting information  - one using photographs and the other using cartoons - on audience's knowledge, attitudes and behavioural intentions.

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Guides from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities  Environment

Provides guides, reports, toolkits and videos to help build stronger municipalities, with resources covering Affordable Housing, Energy, Low Carbon, Transportation Land use, Waste, Water, Women in government

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Fostering a Sustainable Future  EnvironmentSafety

Includes a guide to community-based social marketing, and sections with articles, brief case studies, graphic examples, and an archived listserv.

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Communicating Flood Risks in a Changing Climate  Environment

This report identifies nine principles for communicating about flooding in a changing climate.

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