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The south-eastern region of the UK is facing water scarcity due to population growth and insufficient rainfall to meet household water demand. One of the regulatory requirements for water utilities is customer engagement to increase water efficiency. This chapter aims to identify key barriers to delivering engagement activities promoting household water efficiency and opportunities for improving practices in Essex & Suffolk Water (ESW) – a UK water utility operating in areas of serious water stress. A reflection is made on the water utility's Every Drop Counts (EDC) home visit campaign, an annual household water efficiency initiative, with particular focus on insights from its face-to-face delivery during Asset Management Plan 6 (AMP6, 2015−2020). The pilot of the EDC campaign's virtual initiative comprising of 66 virtual home visits is examined, with focus on drawing out lessons learned as Asset Management Plan 7 (AMP7, 2020−2025) begins during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Whilst the virtual home visit campaign was found to reach a broader customer base, save financial and environmental costs, and address the season and place constraints typically posed by the face-to-face campaign, fewer water saving devices were installed per property (4.4) compared to the face-to-face campaign (6.4), and calculating measured water savings was impossible due to customers failing to take water meter readings independently during the COVID-19 lockdown. Face-to-face home visits should therefore not mean an end to virtual home visits and vice versa, but rather serve as a twin-track strategy for delivering the campaign.

Key strategies that emerged as improving face-to-face home visits in ESW include increasing the use of customer insight; varying the frame for water efficiency communications; improving the face-to-face engagement strategy; enhancing knowledge training; and creating feedback mechanisms between water efficiency managers and plumbers on the frontline. To better maximise virtual home visits, it is recommended that the behavioural change aspect of water efficiency education is delivered as a key and complementary aspect of appointments, and customers are better supported to self-install a wider range of water saving devices.

This chapter bridges the gap between water management theory and practice by providing a better understanding of how practitioners are putting concepts into action on the ground and by so doing, contributes to building a learning culture in the global water sector.

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