Saving Water in Schools: Evidence on the Use of Smart Water Meters and Behavioural Insights

Cape Town has been facing the worst three-year drought in over a century. The situation has become dire as dam levels have dropped to unprecedented lows and households have been restricted to 50 litres of municipal water per person per day. Reducing unsustainable water consumption habits is difficult due to the time lag between water consumption and information reception about volumes consumed. Smart water metering can address this challenge and create awareness around water usage.

Since schools are major consumers of municipal water within the City of Cape Town, this study aims to promote water-wise use and sustainability in schools. Through a combination of smart water meter technologies and behaviour based interventions, this study aims to address whether (1) feedback about past consumption or (2) social comparison in the form of interschool competitions reduce water consumption in schools in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Pilot testing at six schools in Cape Town and Stellenbosch area have shown that average reductions of 40% in water consumption can be achieved through a combination of maintenance fixes, smart meter installations and feedback provision about water consumption to principals and learners. In this study we aim to unpack the impact of each of these using rigorous randomized control trials.

Project status
Financed by
Environment for Development initiative
Project | 11 January 2019