As summer temperatures rise so does demand for water putting extra pressure on supplies. This is particularly problematic in the south east of England which receives insufficient rainfall to meet demand from a growing number of high water consumers. To-date water saving messages have failed to create the major shift in behaviour needed to avoid making the region vulnerable to future water shortages.

To explore a fresh approach to communicating water saving messages Hubbub has developed #TapChat - a playful campaign that invites people to come clean about their daily water habits and access simple tips relevant to their lifestyle.

Even though #TapChat has succeeded in generating considerable reach, it has also demonstrated how difficult it is to engage people in water saving.

Why is engaging people in water saving such a tricky task?

Through #TapChat we’ve identified six reasons why encouraging people to save water is a tricky task.

1) Water is used in private. Excessive water use can go unnoticed. For example, many people admit that they always left the tap on when brushing teeth until a new partner asked why. Focusing on daily routines is an effective way to make people consider their daily water use.

2) It’s cheaper. Water is relatively cheap compared to other utilities, making financial savings less of an incentive. For unmetered households, messages about saving money has little or no bearing.

3) Bills are less regular. This makes it harder for households to compare monthly usage and stay on top of changes.

4) Perceived abundance. Few people remember a time before clean drinking water was available on tap, or have lived through a drought or hosepipe ban. Paired with England’s unwarranted bad reputation for rainy weather, the notion that there’s more than enough water to go around prevails.

5) Benefits are less visible. Compared to many of the other issues that Hubbub works on, benefits of reducing water consumption are not necessarily felt by the individual.

6) Lack of trust. Many people don’t believe that individual actions can make much of a difference compared to the amount of water lost through leakages. There’s also widespread scepticism towards water saving messages coming from water companies.

Some things are better with water

Hubbub is committed to continuing to work with a wide range of partners to address these challenges. We’ve launched a playful advertisement campaign in Sutton that flips traditional water saving messages on its head by focusing on how water adds value to people’s day, and to everyday things that we care about. The adverts show how “some things are better with water” by depicting a person attempting to eat uncooked spaghetti, a commuter staring longingly at a cup of dry coffee-beans, and a woman holding a bouquet of wilted flowers. Each image is paired with a rhyme reminding us that saving water where it isn’t really needed, leaves more for where it makes a real difference. Importantly, the adverts offer a tangible action, such as ordering free water saving products and following simple tips.

The messaging is repeated on posters in local businesses, shopping centres and offices, and through physical adverts in a local park. Vinyl stickers on benches will invite visitors to come clean about water habits by where they sit. To support the advertisement campaign, we’re hosting product giveaways in Sutton, including at the Station, handing out nicely-designed items that can act as helpful reminders such as mirror stickers and tips postcards for sticking on the fridge.

#TapChat demonstrated the importance of linking water saving to people’s personal motivations, and the value of messages coming from trusted messengers such as fellow parents or community members. To talk about water saving in a way that resonates with people, we’re collating a series of blogs written by Sutton residents on topics they’re passionate about. Dive into 6 tips for easy watering from Sutton-based mum and gardener Renee, find out if you’ve been brushing your teeth right, and more.

The need to rethink our daily water use is becoming more urgent due to increasingly erratic weather. We’re continuing to work with new and existing partners to create a conversation about daily water habits, and will continue to share learnings from starting a #TapChat.