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FS53 - Identifying Effective communication strategies to minimise water consumption in social housing

Written by: CIC Start Online

"Identifying Effective communication strategies to minimise water consumption in social housing through interaction with tenants" by Heriot Watt University and Home Log Book Solutions Ltd


Each person in the UK uses a daily average of 150 litres of water. Water is currently un-metered at an individual dwelling level in Scotland; a temperate climate and ample rainfall might lead to an impression of water abundance. There is no perceived need to conserve water in Scotland, but use leads directly to energy consumption – mostly to heat the water. Generating energy produces carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main greenhouse gases which causes climate change. Domestic water heating emits around 5% of the UK’s CO2 emissions; saving water can reduce energy consumption and household bills, reduce local environment impacts, and reduce CO2 emissions related to pumping, heating and treating water.

The Energy Saving Trust estimate that heating water accounts for 30% of average household energy bills . Water needs to be used wisely to enable people to satisfy basic needs and to enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life for future generations. Suitable water saving interventions can be installed, but their full potential can only be achieved with changed behaviour. Realising the effects of water wastage in terms of diminishing resources, energy consumption, environmental impacts and cost savings could motivate people to adopt consumption reducing measures. 

From a social landlord’s perspective, understanding the energy performance of housing stock is the first step in developing a comprehensive and effective energy strategy. Addressing fuel poverty and delivering affordable warmth is an essential measure for housing management organisations to meet key housing standards. There are benefits to addressing fuel poverty for tenants and landlords alike. For the tenant, more affordable energy bills, reduced debt, improved thermal comfort, increased disposable income and improved health can result. For the landlord, energy efficient, affordable to heat homes can result in lower maintenance costs, improved tenant satisfaction, reduced void frequency, reduced rent arrears, and improved asset value.

Scottish Water wants to establish a specification in social housing that delivers maximum water efficiency, whilst ensuring customer enjoyment of their home. This project is part of Scottish Water’s wider resource planning into demand scenarios for water supply over the next 25 years. Objectives are to raise the awareness of water efficiency; test a number of approaches towards water advice; analyse the behavioural change patterns within 500 housing association households over 5 housing associations; and influence consumer behaviour to reduce average daily water consumption.

This study aims to elicit and understand the attitudes of housing association tenants towards water use in their homes. Face-to-face interaction with tenants will enable discussion and probing to establish if they see a need to think about how much water they use, and what they could do to save water in their home.

A series of 10 individual interviews with tenants of Link Housing Association in Falkirk will be performed. The interviews will seek to gain understanding of water use, the need to conserve water, motivation issues behind water conservation etc. These articulations and motivations will be used to develop a set of communication strategies to encourage tenants to participate in a programme of widespread water metering in housing association dwellings; and to decide what the most effective media for communicating with tenants is.

A literature review to inform the design of interview questions will be performed throughout February 2012, with a set of questions prepared for use in March 2012. Interviews will dovetail with Scottish Water’s scheme to install water meters in the homes of participants, thus reducing tenant disturbance and avoiding the need to set up distinct interview sessions. Interview transcription and results analysis will populate a final report and make recommendations for communication strategies to encourage widespread installation of water meters in social housing throughout Scotland.

Key words: domestic buildings, water saving, water metering, behaviour change


Dr Gillian Menzies, Heriot Watt University

Dr Mehreen Gul, Heriot Watt University

For Home Log Book Solutions

The outputs of this study will be disseminated in due course.


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