Tap water awareness

Since the publication of the 2014 OECD report on the future-fitness of water governance in the Netherlands, the concepts of ‘awareness’ and ‘developing awareness’ have become an inescapable part of the vocabulary of managers and water professionals. But how water awareness develops is difficult to determine, because we don’t have a good methodology.

In this project the concept is being defined and operationalised, with the aim of enabling the systematic measurement in the future of customers’ developing water awareness.

Water awareness as a container concept

The OECD report concluded that water awareness among Dutch citizens was strikingly low. At the time this was embraced as the main conclusion with a view to making ‘Netherlands-waterland’ resilient in the future as well. Quite understandably, since the OECD indicated that the awareness gap can lead to decreased support for the necessary investments or behavioural change. The acceptance of this main conclusion has led to several initiatives and campaigns in the water sector with the aim of increasing citizen awareness.

The extent to which water awareness has actually increased since 2014 is a lot less clear however. A plausible explanation for this is that, to date, we do not for the most part have a good methodology to measure water awareness. This, while water awareness is not only an important but also a complex concept, which has so far only been operationalised to a limited degree. Water awareness has increasingly become a container concept. Whilst the focus is often directed at flooding, the distinctions between the different aspects of water are usually not made.

Clear methodology needed

This project involves the development, testing and application of a methodology that enables the systematic measurement of the development of water awareness among customers. It will be applied to both Dutch and Flemish drinking water customers; whenever possible, the application will also address current developments in the area concerned, such as drought, publicity about discharges, or large-scale boil-water advisories.