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Investigating the Impact of Water Efficiency Educational Programmes in Schools (2012)

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This report developed by Waterwise assembles information about water efficiency educational programmes and measures used to evaluate their impact. A literature review was undertaken and information was requested directly from water companies and other organisations. The study reveals that many different educational programmes are taking place in the UK while their effectiveness remains under-investigated. Knowledge gaps exist regarding what educational activities are most effective, whether behaviour change is long-term, as well what type of evidence is collected or incentives offered. It is recommended to evaluate more educational programmes with consistent approaches and facilitated by professional guidance to produce more reliable knowledge.

Executive Summary

Water companies and other organisations undertake an array of work with schools, in order to provide water efficiency education to pupils. While a previous Evidence Base project has focused on the water savings achievable through retrofitting schools with water-efficient devices, the extent to which educational programmes in schools can help reduce water consumption (both within the school and at home) remains uncertain. Furthermore, the existence and extent of any interplay between school retrofit programmes and water efficiency educational efforts has not been examined to date.

This report aims to identify and bring together the water efficiency educational programmes that have been carried out to date, including, where relevant, the measures used to evaluate their impact.

A literature review was undertaken, covering published and unpublished reports from water companies and other organisations. Information was also requested directly from water companies, as well as other relevant organisations identified by the Project Working Group.

In order to begin examining the effectiveness of different types of water efficiency educational activities, categories of educational activity were discussed and decided upon through the Working Group associated with this project, these categories are:

Self Led Resources Assemblies/Talks Active Class Sessions Site Visits


The most common approaches used to evaluate water efficiency educational programmes are questionnaires and feedback forms. Pledges made by children are also a popular way to measure success in educational programmes. For those programmes, where it was possible, the UKWIR spreadsheet of assumptions used by Ofwat was used to make an assessment of any water savings achieved.

This scoping study reveals that while a large number of different educational programmes are taking place in the UK, there is little evidence of the real effect that these are having onchildren’s (and their parents’) water-using attitudes and behaviours, and on water use in schools and at home. The majority of gaps discovered through this scoping study cover the collection of evidence and evaluation of educational activities. There is little understanding of the pre-existing knowledge of children taking part in educational activities and no evidence to suggest which, if any, of the categories of educational activities engage the pupils the most, or whether school retrofits aid any behaviour change as they are usually run separately to education programmes. Importantly there is no evidence to suggest long term behaviour change takes place. There is also little information provided on what type of evidence is collected or what incentives are offered to the respondents.

The lack of evidence should not be taken to mean that educational programmes do not work; instead, the lack of evidence suggests an urgent need to begin evaluating educational programmes more robustly and to disseminate these results.