From late 2013 until the beginning of 2015, the metropolitan region of São Paulo, Brazil, experienced a severe water shortage. During that period, economic incentives were implemented by the regional water provider in a successful attempt to reduce water consumption. We aimed to investigate whether such incentives, as well as the experience of a scarcity period itself, had a persistent impact on consumer behaviour after the water crisis was over. This study was conducted by means of a hierarchical linear model with three levels (HLM3) to verify if the reduction effect remained in the midterm and a regression using panel data to understand which factors influenced water consumption behaviour change before, during, and after the local severe water drought. The results indicate that the average water consumption level subsequent to the rain scarcity period was significantly lower than before and that, in addition to the economic incentives, the severity of the scarcity event explained the behaviour change verified in water consumption.

  • People more directly affected by scarcity tend to consume less water.

  • Economic incentives may be a successful instrument in shaping consumption.

  • Income, gender, and drought severity helped build up new behaviour.

  • Evidence indicates that resilience may be built during a water crisis, leading to new water consumption practices.

  • New consumption practices should be encouraged in times of global water availability uncertainties.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract
Graphical Abstract
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