Civic behaviours foster sustainable water management, survey finds

The first national survey of its kind, ‘Community Knowledge about Water: Who Has Better Knowledge and Is This Associated with Water-Related Behaviors and Support for Water-Related Policies?’  investigates community engagement practices in water management initiatives in Australia.

Published in PLoS One, the article presents a sample of over 5000 thousand Australian adults.  The survey addresses how knowledge differs across water-related themes, identifies characteristics of varying water-related knowledge and explores the relationship between this and water-related civic behaviours and attitudes.

The authors – Angela Dean, Kelly Fielding, and Fiona Newton of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) – highlight the importance of community support for water projects. Communities drive water demand, affect water quality, and are vital to the adoption of civic behaviours that foster sustainability. Research in this area has, largely, looked into the drivers and significance of pro-environment behavior, with little focus on understanding community knowledge. In this context, knowledge is formed not only by education, but also by personal experiences and interests. The study addresses this gap, exploring social factors associated with varying levels of water literacy.

The findings show high levels of knowledge around water use and issues in households, and low understanding of broader contexts and issues beyond it. As such, knowledge is a key force in behaviour changes for sustainability. The authors suggest that meaningful community engagement will need to consider pre-existing knowledge in communities – and supplement this with jargon-free, relevant, and targeted interventions to build support for sustainable water policy.

Angela Dean is a Senior Research Fellow in CRCWSC at Monash University, BehaviourWorks at the Monash Sustainability Institute, and Research Fellow in the School of Communication & Arts, University of Queensland. Kelly Fielding is Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland, Program Leader Society (Program A) at CRCWSC, and co-founder of the Network of Environmental Social Scientists. Fiona Newton is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Marketing, Monash University, and Researcher at CRCWSC.  

Photo: Michael Coghlan/Flickr/cc

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