In 2001 the Environment Agency and Thames Water completed a collaborative research project “The Effectiveness of Marketing Campaigns in Achieving Water Efficiency Savings”. The project attempted to assess the effectiveness of a water efficiency campaign in a residential area of 8000 properties. The results showed that the campaign had no significant effect on water demand both at the individual property level and the total flow into the area. Responses to direct questions about the campaign indicated that at most 5% had noticed it despite the fact that 25% claimed to read the local newspaper and listen to the local radio station used for the campaign, and the fact that a leaflet was sent to all households. The market research provided some clues as to why the customer response to this campaign was so disappointing, principally because the public regard water as low priority compared to other environmental issues. Other research is reviewed that provide additional reasons for the unwillingness of the public to engage on this issue. This paper reviews “success stories” from Phoenix, Arizona and Singapore and identifies the main learning points from these programs. Article 14 of the Water Framework Directive calls for active involvement in water policy. An assessment is made of what this might mean for public participation in water conservation programs.

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