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Towards greener households POLICY HIGHLIGHTS



Analysing attitudes to water Personal behaviour and choices in daily life, from what we eat to how we get to work or heat our homes, have a significant – and growing – effect on the environment. But why are some households greener than others? And what factors motivate green household choices? Answering these questions is vital for helping governments design and target policies that promote “greener” behaviour. The OECD’s Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) survey is designed to do just that. Drawing on observations from over 12 000 respondents in 11 OECD countries (Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), this large-scale household survey conducted in 2011 explores what drives household environmental behaviour and how policies may affect household decisions. It focuses on five areas in which households have significant environmental impact: energy, food, transport, waste and water.

Water and the environment Water plays a crucial role in the development, growth and sustainability of local communities. In recent years, water scarcity has become a global environmental problem. Expanding populations and higher demand for water, together with more volatile supplies, have made water management an increasingly important issue for authorities worldwide. Global water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century and global water demand is projected to increase by 55% by 2050, due to burgeoning needs for manufacturing, energy generation and household use.

This policy highlights points decision makers towards ways to design well-targeted and effective policies to green household water use.

Percent of respondents

Households can do more to save water 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

Never Occasionally Often Always Collect Water Plug the Turn off Take rain water garden in sink when the water showers or recycle the washing while instead of waste coolest the dishes brushing baths water part of the by hand teeth day

EPIC survey respondents were asked about their water-saving behaviour, their use of watersaving devices, their primary sources of drinking water (straight from the tap, bottled water, etc.) and their satisfaction with their tap water. The responses were cross-analysed with a wide range of attitudinal and socio-economic data for the respondent households.

Not applicable



of respondent households have invested in low-volume or dual-flush toilets.


have invested in water flow restrictor taps or low-flow shower heads. Women and older respondents are generally more likely to save water and to invest in water-efficient equipment.



of surveyed households in Korea do not drink the tap water, while in the Netherlands and Sweden the figure is 10%. Households with children under five years old, home-owners, and in an urban area are less likely to drink water straight from the tap.


of surveyed households never collect rainwater or recycle waste water (see figure above).


What determines green behaviour? Water charges. Households whose bill depends on actual water consumption are significantly more likely to save water and buy water-efficient devices. Environmental concern. Those respondents who are concerned about the environment and support environmental organisations are also more likely to buy water-efficient devices and to use water-efficiency labels, and less likely to drink bottled water.

The link between water charging and water saving investments 0.09

Income and ownership status. Low-income households more frequently engage in water-saving behaviour, but are less likely to invest in water efficiency improvements. Tenants do less to save water and make fewer financial investments in water efficiency than home owners.


Perceptions of tap water quality. Those respondents who are not satisfied with the taste and the health impacts of tap water are more likely to drink bottled water.

0.07 0.06 0.05

How perceptions of tap water quality affect the use of different types of drinking water

0.04 0.03




0 Low volume or dual flush toilets

Water flow restrictor taps/low flow shower head

Water tank to collect rain water

Water efficiency investments Note: Bars indicate the level of Spearman correlation between water efficiency investments and unit pricing. The higher the correlation the stronger the link between unit pricing and water efficiency investments. The Spearman correlation is similar to a standard correlation (both measure how closely two variables move with each other), but the Spearman correlation is often used to examine the relationships between attitudinal data.

% of respondents



Straight from tap




Bottled (still)


Bottled (sparkling)


Natural source

10% 0%

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Satisfaction with tap water quality (Health) 0 = Not satisfied, 10 = Very satisfied

Key issues for policy makers •

Implement individual water metering across the board, charging households for water based on their actual consumption, including a clear water billing mechanism for households outlining their water consumption and charges. Combine price policies with awareness campaigns on the environmental impact of water consumption (including buying bottled water), how to save water at home, and how to identify water-efficient equipment. Such campaigns could target men and young adults in particular. Expand the use of water efficiency labelling schemes for appliances: of the 11 countries surveyed, only Australia, Israel and the Netherlands currently have such schemes.

Improve objective information for households on the quality of tap water, for example by distributing leaflets showing the latest water quality data.

Consider the use of targeted grants and subsidies to help low-income households and tenants buy water-efficient appliances. Non-targeted subsidy programmes may be wasteful.

Attitudes matter The OECD’s Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) surveys explore people’s attitudes to a wide range of issues and their influence on environmental behaviour. Their findings are important for helping governments encourage greener behaviour by households. For example, did you know that… •

Since the global financial crisis, more people now feel that environmental issues should mainly be dealt with by future generations?

Women are more likely to be environmentally motivated than men?

There is an overall willingness to be green and to pay more for environmentally-friendly choices?

Trust in government is a more powerful factor than levels of university education in predicting whether people believe climate change is man-made?


OECD (2014), Greening Household Behaviour: Overview from the 2011 Survey, Revised Edition, OECD Studies on Environmental Policy and Household Behaviour, OECD Publishing, Paris, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264 181373-en. ALSO IN THIS POLICY HIGHLIGHTS SERIES: •

Towards greener households: energy

Towards greener households: food

Towards greener households: transport

Towards greener households: waste

This work is published on the responsibility of the SecretaryGeneral of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Organisation or of the governments of its member countries. This document and any map included herein are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

December 2014


For more information: www.oecd.org/ www.oecd.org/env/consumption-innovation/ greening-household-behaviour-2014.htm Photos: © Artisticco/Shutterstock.com

Profile for OECD

Towards Greener Households: Water - Policy Highlights 2014  

Water plays a crucial role in the development, growth and sustainability of local communities. In recent years, water scarcity has become a...

Towards Greener Households: Water - Policy Highlights 2014  

Water plays a crucial role in the development, growth and sustainability of local communities. In recent years, water scarcity has become a...