Every day I wake up and I follow the same routine. I exit my bedroom and head down the hall to the bathroom. Once there, I lift the lid and proceed to empty my bladder. I complete the task and I flush the toilet without hesitation. The contents of the bowl disappear and swirls of water refill it. I then turn to the sink and proceed to wash my hands and face. This is immediately followed by a thorough brushing of my teeth. Most days I am half asleep and the thought of how much water this whole process has just consumed does not even cross my mind. As long as water flows when the lever is pushed or the handle is turned, most of us probably do not stop to question anything at all. But we should. Why? Because clean water is a natural resource and the world’s population continues to grow every day. Therefore, the number of people on earth consuming this limited resource continues to increase thus resulting in a water supply that is decreasing at an alarming rate.
Have you ever looked over at the bottle of water you have sitting next to you on your desk and thought, “what a simple product.” How much effort could it possibly take to produce such a product? After all, it is just water. But the truth is that a single bottle of water requires a lot of time and energy to produce. There is the process of removing the water from its source, the transport of the water to a facility for bottling and then the delivery of the final product to the store (Pennsylvania State University). As consumers, we travel to the grocery store and purchase a case of bottled water. In doing so, we never stop to consider the possible consequences of our action.
Recent data received from NASA satellites, indicate that many of the world’s largest underground reserves of water called aquifers are declining at worrisome rates (Frankel). Even more concerning is the belief that these reservoirs refill at extremely slow rates (Frankel). Clearly the infinite water supply that everyone wants to believe exists is just a fallacy. The question is, how do we stop the world from running out of water? How do we change people’s consumption behaviors before it is too late? Several studies were conducted in the 90’s which identified successful methods for positively changing consumption behaviors. A study by Siero, Bakker, Dekker, and van den Burg (1996) identified that energy consumption behaviors could be altered through the use of comparative feedback. A different study by Dickerson, Thibodeau, Aronson, and Miller (1992) indicated that water consumption behaviors could be altered through the use of cognitive dissonance. Keeping these as well as other studies in mind, an intervention program could be established.
To encourage water consumption throughout the world both comparative feedback and cognitive dissonance could be utilized. A competition between countries could be established to see who is able to conserve the most water. Data would need to be provided to all citizens of the competing nations on a periodic basis in order to be effective. Advocates could then be selected to speak to others about the water supply issue and provide them with the various ways they can do their part to conserve water. These water conservation efforts might include installing energy efficient toilets, taking shorter showers, or turning the water off when brushing your teeth.
While these methods could play a key role in changing water consumption behaviors, it is also important that governments and large corporations do a better job of communicating the current water supply issue to the world. Increasing overall awareness of the problem and increasing the number of individuals that are held accountable for their actions will likely result in more conservative behaviors.
Dickerson, C.A., Thibodeau, R., Aronson, E., & Miller, D. (1992). Using cognitive dissonance to encourage water conservation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22. 841-854.
Frankel, T. (n.d.). New NASA data show how the world is running out of water. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
Pennsylvania State University (n.d.). green.psu.edu. Retrieved online at: Sustainability.psu.edu
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Siero, F.W., Bakker, A.B., Dekker, G.B., & van den Burg, M.T.C. (1996). Changing organizational energy consumption behaviour through comparative feedback. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 16. 235-246.