The Regional District of Nanaimo hopes residents can change their behaviour over time when it comes to water conservation.
The RDN is incorporating behaviour change principles and tools to motivate residents to better engage in water stewardship and conservation initiatives.
Late last year, Beyond Attitude Consulting, an expert in behaviour change, was commissioned by the RDN to review the Team WaterSmart outreach program.
According to the staff report presented at a committee of the whole meeting last month, behavioural psychology research has shown that while people understand the importance of water conservation, most often the necessary action required to support it is lacking.
The consultants referred to behaviour change approaches to address the gap that include identifying and overcoming barriers to action, direct and personal contact, and developing community norms. The tools to inspire change include commitments, communication, incentives and feedback.
The review noted several effective behaviour change approaches that are already integrated into current Team WaterSmart initiatives such as the rebate programs and irrigation checkup.
The consultants provided some program specific recommendations and opportunities to further enhance this aspect of Team WaterSmart programming. They include a pilot master water steward initiative in which community members are trained and equipped to be Team WaterSmart ambassadors and deliver irrigation and outdoor water checkups, provide webinar presentations and co-ordinate stream cleanups.
As well, the consultant suggested creation of an ‘I am WaterSmart’ decal, sticker or yard sign to identify residents focused on water conservation and stewardship in the region.
Conducting regular surveys is also recommended to determine barriers as well as measure of current awareness of and attitude toward water issues in the region.
Also recommended is the use of strategies that seek commitment, provide opportunities for follow-up, give prompts and reminders and remove not only informational barriers to action but also structural barriers to action.
Electoral Area G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River) director Lehann Wallace wanted to know whether the research also considered education over enforcement.
“The review was looking at how can our education and outreach campaigns actually provoke behaviour change,” said Julie Pisani, program coordinator for drinking water and watershed protection. “Looking at evolving from sort of an information-based focus … [to] also reduce barriers to action.”
The RDN committee supported staff’s recommendation that the board endorse the incorporation of behaviour change principles and tools recommended in the report into the existing Regional District of Nanaimo Team WaterSmart outreach program.