Public attitudes towards digital water meters for households

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In response to droughts, various media campaigns and water-saving instructions are released. However, these often only have temporary water conservation effects. A promising development in this regard is Digital Water Meters (DWM), which can provide near real-time water-use feedback. Despite extensive DWM experience in some water-stressed regions, a profound understanding of the initial attitude towards DWM and message-tailoring opportunities are rarely empirically explored. This study aims to obtain insights into the attitude towards the introduction of DWM and explore opportunities for message tailoring, a topic of extra relevance as we may be on the threshold of a large-scale DWM implementation in many world regions. Messages tailored to (i) normative beliefs and attitudes on drinking water, (ii) water-use activity and (iii) phase of decision-making, seem particularly compatible with DWM. Through a survey (n = 1037) in the Netherlands, we observe that 93% of respondents have no objections if their utility invests in DWM and that 78% would accept a (free) DWM because of improved leakage detection, lower costs and environmental considerations. Finally, instead of sociodemographic factors, we observe that an attitude-based customer segmentation approach is an especially useful predictor of respondent’s motivation to endorse DWM and forms a promising basis for water conservation message-tailoring strategies.