Reframing Water Efficiency: Determining Collective Approaches to Change Water Use in the Home

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: This paper explores the collective ordering of domestic water use, shaped through shared social, technical and natural relations, and outlines how this understanding can be used to inform water efficiency initiatives in order achieve sustainable domestic water consumption.
Study Design: Literature review, focus group and qualitative data analysis.
Place and Duration of Study: South of England; December 2013.
Methodology: Three focus groups were held with consumers in the south of England. Each group comprised of 5-8 participants, strategically sampled for a mix of genders and metered/ unmetered customers, and split by life-stage (where age was used as a proxy; 21-35, 36-50, 50+). In-depth, semi-structured discussion techniques were used to investigate the collective drivers of everyday water use and the impact of water efficiency initiatives in changing patterns of water use in the home.
Results: Four key drivers are identified: 1) expectations of service and supply; 2) decision making 3) social norms and networks and 4) socio-technical practices. The findings reveal that while evidence of all drivers are identified in focus group discussions, some offer greater value for intervening in household consumption than others. The discussion uses the example of household laundry to explore the implications of this research for informing water efficiency activities.
Conclusion: Achieving sustainable domestic water consumption requires fresh thinking about water use as a collectively ordered activity. The approach taken highlights alternative spaces for intervention and the findings of this research sheds light on the efficacy of existing water efficiency activities in bringing about more sustainable domestic consumption. The implications of this research are a shift away from providing information and incentives, toward building a more transparent and open relationship with consumers about water resources and developing the resources to identify and address broad social and technological trends that inhibit behavior change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-191
JournalBritish Journal of Environment and Climate Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2016


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