New directions in understanding household water demand: a practices perspective

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Understanding the nature of current household water use is important for forecasting future demand and for designing effective water efficiency interventions. This paper argues that to develop this understanding further it is necessary to shift away from the current focus on sociodemographic characteristics as predictors of litres used towards the everyday practices of household members through which water is consumed, i.e. routine and often habitual activities such as watering the garden, showering and clothes washing. It presents selected results from a survey of water using practices undertaken in southern England in 2011, focusing on garden watering as an example which demonstrates some of the added understanding that such a ‘practices approach’ brings to how water is being used. These serve to illustrate that how individuals water the garden varies, often with little relationship to their sociodemographic characteristics. Further results demonstrate too that how individuals perform different practices varies with little relationship between the practices, so that even a set of households with similar levels of daily per capita water use can be using it in widely different ways. We end with some examples of how this understanding could help in demand forecasting and in designing more effective approaches to interventions.

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