One year on from the imposition of hosepipe bans across most of south east England, the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has welcomed Government reforms to update the 62-year-old legislation on hosepipe bans. The clearer rules have met consumer demand for better information, one of the findings of new qualitative research by CCWater showing what consumers think and feel about using water – and restrictions on it during dry spells.
Using Water Wisely, based on wide-scale surveys and focus groups held at the height of last year’s drought, revealed that consumers were concerned about their water environment and accepted the need to conserve water. Indeed, 8 out of 10 consumers were prepared to accept restrictions such as hosepipe bans – as long as the water companies had done all they could to manage water supplies.
Most consumers are not willing to pay more in order to avoid restrictions and also had strong views on responsibilities for guaranteeing supplies, sending the following messages through the research:
- Don’t blame me for water shortages and don’t make me feel guilty about using water;
- We all have a responsibility to act – Government, water industry, businesses and household consumers;
- Show me what the water industry is doing to fulfil its side of the bargain to tackle leakage and secure future water supplies;
- Make it easy for me to do my bit and show me how I can help.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “The clearer hosepipe regulations will enable any future water restrictions to be better communicated and more understandable to consumers. There is a clear demand from consumers for clearer information, which they are prepared to act on.
“However, consumers are saying ‘show me how’ because they are aware that water resources are stretched at peak times, especially in the south and east of England – but they don’t always have the information they need to use water better.
“It is clear that ‘one size fits all’ approaches will not work; consumers are not robots whose levers can be pushed and pulled. Using Water Wisely tells us that there are a number of different consumer groups who need different kinds of help.”
Consumers fell into eight groups in terms of their attitudes, which often cut across social or income groups (see notes). Consumers wanting to know more can visit our water-saving area at http://www.ccwater.org.uk/server.php?show=nav.45
1. A full edition of the Using Water Wisely research is available on the Consumer Council for Water’s website research area at
The Consumer Council for Water identified different types of customers and their attitudes to water saving:
‘Willing and able’
Jane – who lives in Cambridge, has been retired for some years. She is enthusiastic about using water wisely, has a water butt in the garden, turns the tap off when brushing her teeth and showers more quickly. She is keen to try out new ways of saving water, but could do with help on the simplest, practical steps she can take.
Michael – is in his late 40s and lives in London. He is a self-employed joiner. He takes climate change very seriously and has made huge efforts to reduce his ‘climate impact’. He even re-uses bath water and washing up water in the garden. He takes a cynical view of claims by the water industry that they are doing all they can to cut down on leakage; he thinks his own efforts are made despite, not because of the example set by the industry. A demonstrable reduction in leakage would make him feel that his savings are not made in vain.
‘Unwilling but able’
Anne – from the north of England, is in her late 30s. Looking after five children, she feels concerned about climate change and water use, but doesn’t feel she has the time or energy to do much about it. Moreover, for her to save water might mean not being seen to keep her children properly clean or to provide a proper environment for them to grow up in. She would respond to messages which show how to minimise waste with no extra effort – for example, watering garden plants in the evening rather than in the middle of the day, to reduce losses through evaporation.
Nick – a young computer engineer from Sussex, is aware that he could make straightforward changes to his lifestyle in order to reduce consumption, but has made a conscious decision not to do so. He feels that water companies pass the buck by asking consumers to reduce their own usage. He feels no personal responsibility for any shortage, saying that the supply should be better managed, to ensure water reaches the right place at the right time. He would benefit from clearer explanations of why water restrictions should take place after prolonged dry spells: he will reject patronising or finger-pointing approaches.
‘Willing but unable’
Bev – a young Cambridge student, shares a house with two friends. She takes her environmental responsibilities seriously, and has even taken place in street protests about environmental issues. However, she is also aware that any changes she can make individually are not likely to make a difference on their own. Because she lives in rented accommodation, she has very little say over the possibility of having a meter fitted or choosing efficient appliances.
Andy – an A-level student living with his parents in London, reckons he’s the most green-conscious boy in his class. He is his parents’ sole source of information on the subject – they do not feel they get enough trustworthy facts and figures from anywhere else. He does not feel that his household is making enough effort to make reduce waste, and gets frustrated when his parents say they are too old to pick up new habits now.
‘No time, no money or no interest’
Sara – Sara is a young single mother with two children, living in Brighton. She complains that she has no time to make changes in her lifestyle, and is angry that water companies are asking her to reduce waste. She feels she lives right on the edge of her means and could hardly be accused of being extravagant with her current consumption. She is opposed to having a water meter because she thinks of meters as taxing parents who need to use lots of water because of their children. It will take a lot of work to engage Sara in even discussing water use, let alone persuade her to change her view of water meters.
James – James is an older man from Newcastle, retired although he works voluntarily in a charity shop. He says he’s been around too long to make radical changes to his behaviour for nor reason – water supplies will never be at risk in the north east, as far as he knows, and his strong suspicion is that the problem in the south east is over-hyped. James argues that if the issue is really serious, it is up to the water industry and the Government to take a lead.
[Please note that this news release was taken from The Consumer Council For Water’s website – http://www.ccwater.org.uk/server.php?show=ConWebDoc.1276]