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Agent-Based Model to Manage Household Water Use Through Social-Environmental Strategies of Encouragement and Peer Pressure

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Created: Jun 21, 2018 at 4:55 p.m.
Last updated: Oct 10, 2023 at 5:51 a.m.
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Municipal water managers use demand-side strategies to reduce water demand needs in order to meet the available supply. Demand-side strategies can include increasing the cost of use to drive conservation, offering rebates on upgrading inefficient appliance’s to more effective and lower use versions, and public outreach programs that educate the population on the benefits of water conservation. However, each of these strategies look at appliance retrofits, not behavioral changes. Managers could increase the effectiveness of existing strategies with more information on how, why, and when users decide to reduce their own water use. This project introduces an agent-based model (a type of computational method that uses autonomous beings for the purpose of assessing their emergent effects on the whole system) to addresses how to quantify phycological factors of the household decision making process when it comes to adopting new water conservation techniques. This was accomplished by introducing three new survey derived behavioral attributes (attitudes, peer support, opportunities) and building social-environmental management strategies (encouragement, peer pressure) that capitalize on the strengths of those behaviors. Project input data was specific to Logan, Utah and comes from several sources (iUTAH 2014 survey, the Utah Mapping Portal, local weather monitoring stations, and studies of indoor water use). Results were as follows. Validation between model water use and municipal billing data worked well for indoor use with the matching of appliances to the household occupancy size as the high-frequency data set used was a good representation of indoor water use. Outdoor use validation was complicated due to the difficulty of limiting the wide variation in plant and soil composition, landscape watering methods including secondary water use, and over- and under- watering between household users. Quantified psychological factors on water use showed that the encouragement strategy reduced water use because it could be tailored to target different levels of water users, the peer pressure strategy reduced more because it could self-regulate outliers providing the networks were small and diverse, and combining both strategies saved the most because when working in tandem they increased the number of exchanges occurring which helped overcome limitations of the strategy implemented alone. Mangers can focus policy on these users by implementing a target use based on household size and observable landscape size and by recommending opportunities to conserve water through monthly bills. Managers should provide a framework for households to share their water use stories and information on new water wise techniques households have yet to adopt.

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WGS 84 EPSG:4326
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Funding Agencies

This resource was created using funding from the following sources:
Agency Name Award Title Award Number
National Science Foundation iUTAH-innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-sustainability. OIA – 1208732

How to Cite

James, R., D. E. Rosenberg (2023). Agent-Based Model to Manage Household Water Use Through Social-Environmental Strategies of Encouragement and Peer Pressure, HydroShare,

This resource is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY.


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