Using social norms for water conservation

Testing the Waters: Using Simple, Low-cost Nudges to Reduce Water Consumption

With a six-fold increase in global water use over the last century, the availability of fresh water has emerged as a critical issue for environmental sustainability. Water scarcity is an issue that policymakers must address with urgency — states like California already face one of the worst droughts in history. The United Nations estimates that by 2025 over two-thirds of the world’s population will reside in regions considered water-stressed. Although policymakers have made great strides in developing new approaches to stave off this pending crisis, the traditional methods such as educational awareness campaigns and variable rate pricing have not always curbed people’s day to day water use as expected. But what about using our knowledge of human behavior? Given the successful application of behavioral interventions or “nudges” in other environmental contexts, such as reducing energy consumption using social norms, we might expect that that these tools could also work well for water conservation. ….[READ]

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