Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Efficient 2011


Dead Sea, Jordan

Publication Date



Effective urban water conservation programs must harness a synergy of new technologies, public policies, social cost pricing, information dissemination, citizen engagement, and coordinated actions across decision making scales. Together, these factors affect the volume of water an individual user ultimately saves and the overall success of a conservation program or programs. Over the past 18 months, we have started building an interdisciplinary research program in urban water conservation to quantify and assess the effects of these interconnected factors to motivate citizen engagement. We have interviewed water utility managers and conservation coordinators across the state of Utah, held focus groups with different water user groups, and tested our ability to recruit households into a future, multi-year water conservation study. Preliminary results suggest:

  1. Nearly all households we recruited agreed to enroll in the future study;
  2. Differences in enrollment were statistically insignificant across the different methods we used to interact with participants; and,
  3. Participants expressed interest in a broad range of information, technology, financial, and community conservation programs.

In developing our research program, we have also identified the importance of:

  • Broadly conceiving motivators, contexts, and scales (e.g. household or community) that may influence water use and conservation behavior;
  • Developing integrated cyber-infrastructure and computing capabilities to collect and organize data, process it into site-specific, contextualized information, share it as feedback with participants, and subsequently measure its effects;
  • Differentiating household capacity to conserve (comparing water use to need) from stated willingness-to-conserve and conservation actions;
  • Involving household participants as collaborators through participatory action research;
  • Training and delegating responsibilities to graduate student researchers; and,
  • Collaborating with local water utilities.

We are pursuing funding to run a large, multi-year study that will allow us to investigate the separate and cumulative effects of various water conservation programs on household water use. As part of the study, we also seek to test whether presenting households with estimates of their capacity to conserve can effectively motivate willingness-toconserve and conservation actions. The study will elucidate the contextualized factors that shape residential water use and people’s conservation actions.