Drivers of water-use changes

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Nov 10, 2017
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Drought psychology

Drivers of water-use changes

Water restrictions in times of drought can lead to changes in various household behaviours, but there are significant differences in which practices will continue on after the drought is over and the sense of abundance returns. Such practices differ based on location, climate, and policies, but the committment to them depends on the material and psychological changes they require.

Focus groups in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth were interviewed by Jo Lindsay and Sian Supskin at Mounce University, discussing how they responded to the water restriction policies and promotions in each city during Australia's 'millennium drought' from 1996-2010. Gardening practices were affected through sprinkler bans and fines for non-compliance, leading some interviewees to abandon their sprinkler systems altogether and to change how they viewed their garden even after the drought restrictions were lifted.

When it came to showering, however, even individuals who bought low-flow showerheads during the drought said they uninstalled them afterwards, as the convenience of high water pressure and the psychological pleasure from long showers were considered important enough to discard water savings. Consciousness and attitudes, analyzed in this way, may not be as durable in promoting conservation habits as changes in physical and material structures.

Lindsay J. & Supski S. Changing household water consumption practices after drought in three Australian cities. Geoforum (2017) doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.06.001

Photo: Denise Krebs (CC)

Go to the profile of Ryan Scarrow

Ryan Scarrow

Associate Editor, Nature Sustainability

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