Publication Details

Hurlimann, A., Dolnicar, S. & Meyer, P. (2009). Understanding behaviour to inform water supply management in developed nations - A review of literature, conceptual model and research agenda. Journal of Environmental Management, 91 (1), 47-56.


Water is a scarce resource in many parts of the developed world. Two solutions are possible to address water scarcity: conservation of existing resources, or the further production of water from new sources e.g. through recycling of wastewater or desalination of seawater. However, the main hurdle to implementation of many of these solutions is often viewed as a lack of public willingness to adopt these alternative water behaviours. Research in this area is therefore crucial. Yet, and possibly due to the interdisciplinary nature of such research, there is currently no comprehensive overview of what has been done before. This study fills this gap by (1) choosing a general consumer behaviour perspective as a starting point, (2) developing a conceptual model of research required in the area of water-related public acceptance studies, (3) identifying eight key water-related behaviours which require future research attention, and (4) reviewing which areas of the conceptual model have been investigated in the past by conducting an extensive literature review of water-related social science research. The review established that the majority of work which has been conducted is located at the cross-roads of personal characteristics and behavioural intentions. Significant gaps exist in relation to researching the adoption of a wide range of demand-side water behaviours. This indicates a dominance of supply-side solutions in social-research exploration. The review identifies a number of research needs including: the exploration of actual adoption of water-related behaviours (rather than behavioural intentions); and to widen the scope of water behaviour enquiry to include more demand-side solutions. Given the increasing scarcity of water in many areas of the world, addressing these identified gaps will be of significant importance. Thus our model informs the social-research agenda for water policy.



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