Research shows that most people are ‘guilt-free waterers’ and are unaware of their water usage or risk to future resources (March 2022)

Water companies team up with Blue Marble to understand customer consumption in the garden

Results of latest study using “Gogglebox-style” video footage to observe how people use water in the garden show many people are unaware of how much water they use and are unaware of the risk to future supplies.

Social research agency Blue Marble conducted this study on water usage in the garden over a period of six weeks in August and September 2021. The project was commissioned by a working group of five water companies: Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, South East Water, Southern Water and Wessex Water, to highlight the huge challenge faced in reducing household consumption.

The combination of people’s love of nurturing their garden spaces and their lack of awareness of the pressure on water resources means most householders are guilt-free waterers: they view garden watering as a worthwhile activity – rarely considering it an extravagant use of water.

The project followed 15 households across the five water company regions and typical water usage behaviours in their gardens were observed through the filming.

A key objective was to explore the difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. The mix of observation and interviews has shed light on how little people think about the water they use in the garden.

Using outdoor tap water loggers, respondents were able to see how much water they used during a single outdoor activity with results ranging from 1.5litres to 590litres – many were shocked by what they saw.

Critically the study showed that without providing an alternative to get the task done, there was little motivation to change behaviour.

Full findings can be found via the following link:

A summary video of the findings can be found via the following link:

Emma Partridge, Director of Blue Marble: “We gain powerful new insights every time we use motion-sensitive cameras to capture real behaviour over time. This project is a great example of water company collaboration to support behaviour change strategies. The findings suggest sector-wide collaboration to develop communications could play a key part in helping to meet the challenge of reducing consumption.”

Sarah Castelvecchi, Water Saving Manager for Anglian Water said: “Operating in the driest part of the UK means we need to make our water go even further. We’re working hard to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place to keep taps running, bur crucially we need our customers to do their bit too. Insight like this is extremely valuable to help us plan how we talk to our customers about the changes we all need to make.”

Andy Clowes, Head of Customer Experience & Strategy, South East Water said: “It’s great to see this research and using technology brings a whole new slant to the insight.  We know from our work with customers that customers want to know how they can save water and so understanding how they are using our services is critical to helping us as an industry achieve this.”

Nick Eves, Head of Customer Insight for Southern Water said: “It’s been fantastic to join up with other water companies across England to dive into an area where customer behaviours can really influence consumption. The innovative research approach has highlighted a number of nuances between attitudes and behaviours which are now shaping our messaging and support to customers around their water usage in the garden.”

Aimee Shaw, Head of Customer Insight at Wessex Water commented: “This study has been fascinating; it’s been very useful to gain new insight into customer attitudes and behaviours in an area previously unexplored.  The findings will help shape how we engage with customers on this important topic.”

About Blue Marble: Blue Marble is a market and social research agency based in Southwest England, working with clients across the public, private and third sectors.

For further information, contact:

Sonali Patel, Associate Director