There is a finite supply of global fresh water available for human consumption, which is in great demand from both humans and the environment. As technology and populations increase, so do the demands and pressure on this limited resource. Demand far too often outstrips supply, requiring authorities to impose restrictions on water use. Recent research undertaken by Rand Water, in the Rand Water supply area (in and around Gauteng, South Africa) points to the desire from end users to be empowered with knowledge to make their own decisions on water use reduction, rather than to have authoritative restrictions imposed on them. This observation indicates the importance of water conservation education and awareness campaigns to facilitate the reduction in water consumption by consumers, and suggests that education is a priority in the implementation of water conservation strategies.

INTRODUCTION

Droughts are often cyclical in nature, and commonly have a destructive element to them. Depending on circumstances and location, a drought may refer to a period of a few dry days, a succession of many dryer days over a period of time, or a gradual change from what is known as wet (for a location), to a gradual drying out of an area, due to a prolonged lack of rain (Fredericksen 1992).

According to Backeberg & Viljoen (2003), if past cyclical rainfall patterns continue, indications are that the next drought period in South Africa is imminent. To plan for a drought only once it has arrived is too late, and action is required immediately to mitigate against any potential negative effects of drought, even though it may not have occurred yet.

To prevent and reduce the impacts of drought, the government must plan for the storage of water, and in times of drought, must intervene in a timely manner. The South African Constitution states that access to water is a basic human right, and the National Water Act of 1998 and Water Service Act of 1997 assist in underpinning this right. Municipalities have by-laws that include regulations for the supply of water and the restriction of water use.

In most instances, municipalities, via Water Boards, are the responsible entities for supplying water to the end consumer. The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) is primarily responsible for policy, monitoring, regulation and planning of work on water supply. In 1903, the Rand Water Board (RWB) was established to supply water to the Witwatersrand area during the gold rush, and in 1993 the Board's name was changed to Rand Water (RW). More than 99% of water abstracted and treated by RW is surface water. Currently Rand Water supplies water to more than 12 million people (RW 2012–2013). The volume of water supplied throughout Rand Water's area of supply (Figure 1) is on average 4,106 million litres per day (RW 2012–2013). In South Africa, it is estimated that approximately 27% of all water is used for domestic use (DWA 2013), and of that, between 35% and 50% is used outdoors.
Figure 1

Map of South Africa indicating the Rand Water Supply Area.

Figure 1

Map of South Africa indicating the Rand Water Supply Area.

Methods of potable water regulation are implemented mainly during drought and water shortages. These regulations are often in the form of water restrictions or water demand management measures. Generally, the implementation of water restrictions alone does not change long-term water use habits, as restrictions are mainly implemented during times of crisis only. This makes implementing restrictions a reactive rather than proactive response to a water crisis. The aim of water conservation should be to work towards achieving water efficiency in all aspects of water use, from industrial use to business, agricultural and domestic use. Water efficiency is achieved when a task or process is undertaken using the least amount of water possible. It can be an indicator of the amount of water required for a specific purpose (Water efficiency 2009).

Reducing the need for more water per capita impacts positively on the need for additional water storage infrastructure. In his study on demand management theory of water supply in South Africa, Stephenson (1999) concludes that ‘long-term education of consumers is seen as a necessity’. By instilling pro-environmental attitudes within residential water-users, significant water savings can be achieved (Willis et al. 2011). Barriers to the adoption of water conservation behaviours such as the perception of inconvenience, impracticality and cost of water-saving devices (Dolnicar & Hurlimann 2010) can also be addressed with environmental awareness campaigns.

Continual efforts are being made to introduce water conservation education to different elements of society in South Africa. As with so many educational attempts, some are successful while some are not. Initially, Rand Water's Water Wise program focused their campaigns on the gardening public, as they were, at the time, perceived to be high-volume water users. Later, the campaigns took on a more holistic approach with other high-volume water use, such as businesses, residential properties, recreational facilities and the leisure industry.

Preliminary data analysis (Table 1) suggests an average of 16% to 40% water savings can be achieved after implementation of Xeriscaping measures in the USA (Texas Water Development Board City of Austin 1994), demonstrating the potential for individuals to save water through self-implemented methods.

Table 1

Water savings after implementing Xeriscaping™ principles (Texas Water Development Board City of Austin 1994)

StudySampling methodNumber of sitesAnalysis methodXeriscaping savings (gallons/day)
Meas, Arizona Selected rebate participants and a random control group 150 Univariate 142 (33% difference) 
East Bay MUD, California Random sample 1,040 Univariate 209 (42%) 
North Marin Residential California Random sample with a questionnaire assessing additional predictors 382 Multivariate 126 to 207 (25%) 
City of Austin Phase I: 1992 Units selected from a Xeriscape newsletter and a bulk mailing with a 5% response rate 100 Univariate blocking for lot size 107 (40% saving for small lots) 
City of Austin Phase I: 1993 (adjusted for bias) Units selected from a Xeriscape newsletter and a bulk mailing with a 5% response rate 100 Multivariate correction of sampling bias 67 (16%) 
StudySampling methodNumber of sitesAnalysis methodXeriscaping savings (gallons/day)
Meas, Arizona Selected rebate participants and a random control group 150 Univariate 142 (33% difference) 
East Bay MUD, California Random sample 1,040 Univariate 209 (42%) 
North Marin Residential California Random sample with a questionnaire assessing additional predictors 382 Multivariate 126 to 207 (25%) 
City of Austin Phase I: 1992 Units selected from a Xeriscape newsletter and a bulk mailing with a 5% response rate 100 Univariate blocking for lot size 107 (40% saving for small lots) 
City of Austin Phase I: 1993 (adjusted for bias) Units selected from a Xeriscape newsletter and a bulk mailing with a 5% response rate 100 Multivariate correction of sampling bias 67 (16%) 

Education is a continual process and needs to be sustainable to be effective. Lund & Reed (1995) studied the drought in California between 1976–1977 and 1987–1992. Water rationing was a common demand management approach during severe droughts. In response to this, water districts and water users found continual water conservation to be an inexpensive and effective method of saving water, while delaying the need for additional resources.

Rationale for the research

In order to ascertain the success and effectiveness of the education programs undertaken by Rand Water's Water Wise adult education efforts, it is important to conduct research on an ongoing basis. The results from this research assist in determining end-user knowledge; understanding the effectiveness of displays, promotions, pamphlets and other educational material; determining aspects of the education programs that work well and what needs to be changed; pinpointing the habits and perceptions that may have changed, as well as those that have not; and identifying both effective and ineffective messages.

With the regular feedback received, the team continually adapts their message and methodology, in order to be as effective as possible in conveying the water conservation message, as well as changing attitudes and habits.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that people in the Rand Water supply area have a desire to move away from imposed legislative measures to reduce water use, and instead would like to move towards self-imposed knowledge that empowers and allows them to implement their own water-use regulatory measures. The last major drought in the Rand Water supply area was in 1995/96. Rand Water has since embarked on a strategy to educate end users on various water conservation initiatives.

To determine the receptiveness and knowledge of end users regarding this theory, a series of surveys were conducted at different events over a period of time and from a variety of audiences and locations within Rand Water's water supply area. The audiences ranged from general public and gardeners, to managers and staff working within the ‘Green Industry’. The Green Industry includes members of the South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC), and other ornamental horticulture-related organisations. The first survey commenced in 1998 and the last survey was conducted in December 2013.

MATERIAL AND METHODS

Surveys, in the form of face-to-face verbal questionnaires (Appendix 1, available in the online version of this paper), were undertaken with random samples within closed groups of the general public attending garden-centre exhibitions, as well as with staff and managers working within the Green Industry. The groups of participants surveyed consisted of managers and staff from associations within the Green Industry, including, amongst others, the South African Nursery Association, Institute of Environment and Recreation Management (Africa), South African Landscape Institute, and Landscape Irrigation Association. In addition, members of the general public visiting garden centres either for business or pleasure were also surveyed, as were visitors to selected shopping malls throughout the supply area.

The field-workers conducting the surveys consisted of a combination of Rand Water staff guided by a researcher, and staff from contracted market research companies. Questionnaires consisted of both open- and close-ended questions, producing qualitative and quantitative information. A minimum of 200 individuals were surveyed per sample group to ensure that results were statistically valid.

RESULTS, DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

In 2008, 53% of Green Industry members (n = 62) indicated that they were encouraged to conserve water in reaction to environmental awareness, as opposed to water restrictions (45%) (Figure 2), or increases in the cost of water (21%). This indicates a better response to awareness as opposed to enforced regulations in terms of water conservation.
Figure 2

The percentage of respondents from various sample groups that feel water restrictions and environmental awareness would encourage water conservation.

Figure 2

The percentage of respondents from various sample groups that feel water restrictions and environmental awareness would encourage water conservation.

A survey in 2010 at garden centres and nurseries (n = 504) indicated that environmental awareness of water conservation was a much greater encouragement to save water (82%) than were water restrictions (63%) (Figure 2), or the cost of water (69%). Additionally, 30% of respondents felt that Water Wise should provide education to encourage people to save water, as opposed to enforcing water restrictions (9.6%). More than half the respondents (53%) felt that they, as individuals, could make a difference to water conservation (Figure 3).
Figure 3

Samples taken from the general public indicate that the belief that an individual can make a difference to conserving water through implementing Water Wise practises has increased between 2010 and 2013.

Figure 3

Samples taken from the general public indicate that the belief that an individual can make a difference to conserving water through implementing Water Wise practises has increased between 2010 and 2013.

Surveys conducted with managers and workers within the Green Industry in 2010 (n = 300) showed that 72% of respondents felt that more information on environmental conservation would encourage them to conserve water, as opposed to 29% who felt water restrictions would benefit water conservation (Figure 2).

In 2012, 90% of respondents visiting garden-themed exhibitions (n = 313) felt that the Water Wise brand was useful to them, and 67% felt that the Water Wise display at these shows assisted them in becoming more aware of water conservation.

Surveys were conducted at a range of exhibitions and garden-related shows during 2013. Results from these surveys (n = 627) show that an average of 98% of respondents feel that they can make a difference to water conservation by implementing simple Water Wise practises (Figure 3). Only 26% of respondents felt that water restrictions would encourage them to save water, while 79% felt that more education on water conservation would encourage them to conserve water (Figure 2). Only 2.5% of respondents would not be willing to sacrifice any of their current practises to conserve water.

For the first time, the Water Wise team surveyed general public in shopping malls in 2013. Six shopping malls were visited and in total 206 people were interviewed. The aim of this type of survey was to obtain trends from members of the public who may not necessarily be keen/enthusiastic gardeners. Results (Figure 4) indicate that this survey group believe that most people do not do enough to save water (76%) and that they would be encouraged to save more water if they were educated on such matters (69%). In addition, 69% of the survey group believe that the government must make people use less water, while 63% believe that South Africa will experience a water crisis in the next 20–50 years. Seventy-three percent of the group surveyed said they would like more Water Wise information, and 89% believe that Water Wise information has assisted them in saving water in the past.
Figure 4

Comparison of results of the survey between shopping malls and garden centres.

Figure 4

Comparison of results of the survey between shopping malls and garden centres.

Research in six garden centres within the Rand Water distribution area was conducted simultaneously. The same set of questions were asked. Results showed that 76% of visitors sampled believe that most people do not do enough to save water, while 61% believe that it is up to the government to make people use less water. Seventy-one percent of the sample believe that South Africa will experience a water crisis in the next 20–50 years, while 60% believe that they would be encouraged to save more water if they were educated on such matters. Eighty-four percent of the sample would like to receive more Water Wise information, while 90% believe that Water Wise information has assisted them in saving water in the past.

Results from the shopping mall and garden centre sample groups show that both groups have similar perceptions of water conservation and South Africa's water situation. It may be suggested that it is not only the ‘traditional gardening fraternity’ that will save water and require water conservation information, but also the general public, many of whom may not necessarily be enthusiastic gardeners.

CONCLUSION

Over the past 6 years, Water Wise surveys undertaken in a variety of locations with general public, as well as managers and staff in the Green Industry, have consistently shown that, in general, people respond more favourably to education and awareness, as opposed to enforced legislative restrictions. Results further show that the need for water conservation information to assist with water use reduction has increased from 28% in 2008 to between 68% and 90% in 2013. This provides a clear indication that water conservation strategies should focus more on providing awareness on reducing water consumption and saving water, rather than simply imposing restrictions in the event of a water crisis or drought.

This further highlights the idea that although people want government to assist with water conservation measures, they prefer to be empowered with tools (such as water conservation information) that allow them to manage and reduce their own water use.

REFERENCES

REFERENCES
Backeberg
G. R.
Viljoen
M. F.
2003
Drought management in South Africa
.
Paper presented at Workshop of the ICID Working Group on Irrigation under Drought and Water Scarcity, Tehran, I.R of Iran, 13–14 July. http://www.irncid.org/GetFileArticles.aspx?FilePrm=5215_60729.pdf
.
Department of Water Affairs (DWA)
2013
National Water Resource Strategy, 2nd edn. Department of Water Affairs, Pretoria, South Africa
.
Dolnicar
S.
Hurlimann
A.
2010
Australians’ water conservation behaviours and attitudes
.
Australian Journal of Water Resources
14
(
1
),
43
53
.
Fredericksen
H. D.
1992
Drought Planning and Water Efficiency Implications in Water Resources Management
.
Department of the World Bank
,
Washington, DC
,
p. 8
.
Lund
J. R.
Reed
R. U.
1995
Drought water rationing and transferable rations
.
Journal of Water Resources and Management
21
(
6
),
429
437
.
RW (Rand Water)
2012–2013
Annual Report
.
Johannesburg, South Africa
.
Stephenson
D.
1999
Demand management theory
.
Water SA
25
(
2
),
115
121
.
Texas Water Development Board City of Austin
1994
Xeriscaping: Promises and Pitfalls, pp. 1, 6
.
Water efficiency
[online]
2009
(16 February 2009)
.
Willis
R. M.
Stewart
R. A.
Panuwatwanich
K.
Williams
P. R.
Hollingsworth
A. L.
2011
Quantifying the influence of environmental and water conservation attitudes on household end use water consumption
.
Journal of Environmental Management
92
,
1996
2009
.

Supplementary data