Water conservation : a social belief : accounting for the influence of attitudes on water abstraction policy : a case study of Mid-Canterbury
A combination of variable water resources, increased consumption and lack of anticipatory water abstraction policy has contributed to an increased occurrence of water shortages in New Zealand. Scarce water resources must be conserved for future needs, and there is a current trend in water management favouring the use of pricing mechanisms to reduce existing demand for water. Pricing and property rights mechanisms are believed to be a means of controlling water use, but there is uncertainty over how effective they are for changing behaviour. This uncertainty is compounded by a lack of information on the beliefs and attitudes which influence water use. An ethnographic research approach was taken to identify factors which influence beliefs and attitudes to water use, and the case study of mid-Canterbury highlights the ambivalence to water conservation policies. Data obtained from interviews and newspaper articles shows that social and cultural beliefs and attitudes about water use and management may limit the effectiveness of pricing mechanisms to change people's water use. Dominant beliefs about an adequate water supply and an implicit right to use water, combined with attitudes about the individual benefits of water use, outweigh or override normative beliefs about conserving water. Moreover, cultural beliefs that water charges imply resource ownership creates resistance to the use of pricing and property rights mechanisms to achieve water conservation. The lack of strong support for water conservation further reflects the interests of powerful water user groups who have more influence in the policymaking process. Policymakers may need to consider a broader range of policy tools to elicit community support for controls on water use. Addressing beliefs and attitudes is a necessary step to effectively achieving water conservation objectives.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordswater conservation; social belief; water abstraction policy; water management; water resources; pricing mechanisms; policy making; Integrated Environmental Management (IEM); policy improvement; Canterbury; New Zealand
Fields of Research050202 Conservation and Biodiversity; 050209 Natural Resource Management; 050205 Environmental Management; 160507 Environment Policy; 160802 Environmental Sociology
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