Behavioural sciences and data

Citizens are increasingly asked to adapt their behaviour. Drinking water utilities also make such requests. During drought periods for instance we see customers asked to be economical with their water during peak hours. We also know that influencing behaviour is an extremely difficult matter.

Influencing behaviour

In a political climate in which even government is less and less inclined to govern through restrictions and collective rules, and in which increasing emphasis is placed on the citizen’s individual responsibility and freedom of choice, societal challenges are approached more and more frequently as a sum of individual behaviours and choices. In the drinking water sector we also witness instances where the customers are asked to voluntarily adapt their behaviour, as was the case last summer, when millions of households were urged to be economical in their water consumption during peak hours. At the same time, we are aware that influencing behaviour is extremely difficult, and that the change by no means always takes the desired direction, even if you provide people with more knowledge. There is therefore a need for better understanding of the effectiveness of the influence mechanisms.

From providing knowledge to nudging

At the end of 2018, on the basis of a systematic literature study, an exploration was made of the most recent knowledge about the effectiveness of influence mechanisms with regard to water savings by customers. The present exploratory research builds upon that earlier work, and will focus on examining the opportunities for a productive combination of behavioural sciences and hydroinformatics. Besides a literature study, this will also involve looking at (1) international practice and (2) insights from other fields. The translation of the results to practice will be explored through a series of interviews and the design of an application tool.