Article

Some Perspectives on Managing Water Demand: Public and Expert Views

Canadian Water Resources Journal (Impact Factor: 0.64). 01/1984; 9(4):9-18. DOI: 10.4296/cwrj0904009

ABSTRACT An investigation was undertaken to explore two aspects of water demand management strategies. The first aspect involved comparing and contrasting the public’s and expert’s perceptions of various water demand management techniques. The second part of the study involved an examination of people’s attitudes, behaviours, motivations and satisfactions with regard to water conservation. A survey was conducted during the late spring of 1984 which collected data from a random sample of citizens in the communities of Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario and from the participants in a symposium on water demand management. Data from the 39 public respondents and the 33 expert respondents were analyzed. The results of the comparative analysis indicated that the experts perceive rate structure strategies as being more effective than do the public. Although both groups rated education strategies significantly higher than other demand management options, the experts tended to underestimate the full extent of the public’s belief in reduction. Data from the respondents were also subjected to dimensional analysis and relationships between the dimensions were examined. The results indicate that people hold not one but several conservation related attitudes and they report deriving a series of separate and distinct satisfactions from conservation behaviours. The satisfactions were not global concepts but were quite specific involving, for instance, frugality and participation. These findings have both practical and theoretical relevance. The practical benefits come from the potential to devise more effective demand management techniques. It would seem wise to avoid developing water demand programs which are based upon preconceptions of what the public thinks. It is more effective, and less embarrassing, to discover the differences between the public’s and the experts’ knowledge and preference structure during development of a program than to have these differences surface during implementation of one’s plan. Our theoretical understanding of why people bother to conserve resources may be improved by investigating more than just attitude-behaviour consistency or the effects of extrinsic rewards. More research attention should be given to satisfactions derived from environmentally appropriate behaviour.

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