Abstract

Water utilities rely on technological interventions to achieve household water efficiency. This practice is critiqued as seeking to appeal to the financial interests implied by people's role as customers rather than to achieve behavioural change in householders. A policy analysis reveals that although not prominently evidenced by some water utilities, public engagement is key to long-term demand reduction. This paper presents a systematic review of the demand management literature, specifically outlining key theoretical considerations for public engagement in relation to reducing water demand and their translation into practice in utilities. The aim is to demonstrate the use of a framework for examining engagement in utilities. Findings show that demand management interventions need to exploit: (1) effective frames for messages, (2) the diversity of the public, and (3) communication mediums that facilitate feedback. These insights informed the development of the MAC (Message Actor Channel) model of communicative water practices further used in this study to review public engagement plans for household water efficiency in selected UK water utilities based on processes described in their 2014 water resources management plans. Findings will inform the next stages of a doctoral study that will assess utilities' field engagement of households to reduce water use.

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