Artesia leads on applying social science research to water demand analysis

Artesia leads on applying social science research to water demand analysis

In May Artesia launched its new KTP project in conjunction with the University of Manchester. It aims to utilise social science theories and methods to aid industry understanding of normal and peak water demand.

Currently, there is an industry knowledge gap relating to certain factors affecting household water consumption including understandings of behaviour, attitudes and water-related practices. Considering there is substantial diversity in the ways water-related practices (e.g. laundry, personal hygiene, kitchen and garden practices) are performed (Browne et al. 2013), the range in water use between homes is important when we think about how we as an industry can deliver deep reductions in household consumption (Artesia Consulting, 2018). How do we actually use water in our everyday lives? Why do we use the water we do? What motivates and guides our mundane everyday choices? How do these differ from person to person, house to house, street to street? Data on these types of questions is currently difficult to acquire, predict and model according to current methods and approaches. Methods which can go further than what has already been achieved to understand water demand and those which can help to explain why demand is becoming increasingly extreme in hot, dry and sunny periods are needed in our approach to understanding and managing household water use.

Our project seeks to make use of social science theories (mainly social practice and everyday practice) and methods (including qualitative and mixed method approaches) to develop deeper insights into household water demand. We aim to develop a Water Practices Analytical Toolkit or ‘Social Science Handbook’ for use in the water industry. This will offer new ways of understanding the practices, habits and behaviours that drive consumer demand and enable us to influence these more effectively than we can at present. After launching, we’ve been working to establish the project and recruit a strong and diverse steering group of water industry professionals. Our first meeting in September provided a fantastic opportunity to get the group together and begin sharing ideas.

Starting with the questions: How do you see this research contributing to understanding on water demand? Is there a project your involved in that would benefit from these research insights?

The group were able to share ideas, events, projects and experiences which provided fascinating reflections on household water demand. For example, what will the move to a 24 hour society and changes to night-time use mean for leakage monitoring and how we can better understand the range of consumer behaviours and practices as we begin to consider how we can effectively influence water demand reductions. The thoughts and priorities of leading water industry stakeholders have already provided vital insight into how our KTP project can better contribute to this area and industry understanding of household water demand. We are excited to see where our KTP takes us and the industry, with huge potential for policy and industry priorities relating to household water demand to shape the project path and outputs over the next 18 months.

Do you have any thoughts on what the top policy and practical priorities are for household water demand over the next five years? If so, please share with the team (please email joe.cahill@artesia-consulting.co.uk). We’ll also be launching a mailing list for the project shortly and welcome all interested to join! Just get in touch and we’ll do the rest.

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