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How much do water companies spend on customer engagement in the UK and internationally? (2018)

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Several UK water companies, along with the economic regulator (Ofwat) have identified the necessity to move towards proactive customer engagement, with a particular focus on achieving large scale water use reduction. As a result of climate change and the expanding population, improved water efficiency is an increasingly important global issue. However, to date there is a lack of suitable research in this area. Waterwise aimed to address a portion of this gap in knowledge through an exploratory survey, predominantly focusing on spending by water utilities in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia on their customer communications and marketing on water efficiency. This research also aimed to compare and contrast company spend on engagement relative to their levels of water efficiency.

Key findings are:

  • Communication strategies are relatively similar from company to company, both in terms of the media used, and the message content.
  • The majority of water companies engage with customers on a variety of water efficiency topics, with the most common methods of engagement relating to water saving behaviours and water saving products.
  • Digital media, websites, leaflets and social media were the most common forms of communication employed by the participating companies.
  • Facebook and twitter were found to be the most common form of social media communication
  • Proportionate spend varied greatly across regions with Australia dedicating a much greater portion of their annual spend to this. Increased spend in drought years was also varied across companies.
  • Greater investment in water efficiency and resources communications would have a range of benefits as part of the 2019 price review.
  • Australia spends a larger portion of total company spend on water efficiency and resources communications than Europe, UK and USA. The percentage of total company spend used on water resources and efficiency communications:  Australia = 6% USA = 1%. EU = 1%. UK = >0.2%
  • For drought years, some companies spent a much greater portion of their annual spend than on average year