A recent report by WHO and UNICEF on the state of water and sanitation provision across the globe paints a gloomy picture of the situation in developing countries. Of great concern is the plight of the urban poor whose numbers are increasing rapidly across the developing world. Currently, a more market-like approach is being promoted as the way forward in the water sector. This approach is seen as an effective way of being demand responsive and hence a useful way of providing a sustainable water supply service for all groups of consumers. The authors advocate that a prerequisite for effectively using a marketing approach is a good understanding of the behaviour of the target consumers, that is, knowing what consumers think, feel, do and the things and places that influence and are influenced by what they think, feel and do. Consumer behaviour studies have widespread application in the marketing of goods and services and the application of some of these concepts could be useful in improving water services delivery. Better understanding of consumer behaviour could help in developing strategies for successfully marketing water as both a social and an economic good, thus enhancing the sustainability of water supply services.

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