Briefing on Literature and Research Review of the Factors Affecting Consumer Behavior in relation to Domestic Water Consumption for the FIRMA Model

Tasia Asakawa, University of Surrey


Background: Significance for FIRMA Model


            Reviewing literature and research relevant to modelling consumer behaviour especially in relation to domestic water consumption was found to be valuable for the FIRMA model.  In order to more realistically model consumer behaviour, significant factors found affecting this behaviour need to be identified.  The research briefing that follows summarizes 1 ½ months of searching and evaluating sources which empirically examined or suggested significant factors.  It indicates that the studies already accomplished are scattered across various disciplines, lack temporal continuity and can provide only preliminary data and information for the FIRMA model.  However, the preliminary information is useful because it identifies weaknesses in previous research, suggests factors that can be temporarily incorporated into the FIRMA model with some reliability and suggests directions for further review and evaluation.




            As mentioned, this review characterizes the findings as scattered, discontinuous and preliminary.  The main disciplines within which consumer behaviour has been a topic of research include marketing, business, economics, psychology, sociology, communication and media studies, advertising, and geography.  Most of these disciplines have concentrated primarily on consumer purchasing behaviour of retail products and how to predict or manipulate this behaviour through different channels of communication and information distribution.  Water consumption, specifically, has not been a common topic of research in this conventional trend.  However, recent international and national attention to the limits of natural resource issues have initiated concern about freshwater issues.  The studies reviewed here have generated a long list of factors (please refer to the Appendix) that suggest or have proven to affect domestic water consumption behaviour.  The factors which have been either quantitatively or qualitatively proven to be most significant include the following:  metering; income levels; and, to some extent, environmental awareness.  Factors that may be equally significant but require stronger evidence in relation to domestic water consumption include: standard of living; the media; “neighbors” (communication with family, friends and neighbors); increased environmental education; and place.  Finally, the other factors that have been found in the literature may or may not be significant but further review and testing are required to determine this status. 

Missing Research


            This report was primarily based upon U.S. and U.K. sources in English.  It could be reinforced much more with focused research in other languages and literatures.  In order to develop a more sophisticated model and create a broader European context for domestic water consumption behaviour, this extension would be highly recommended.  Furthermore, this broadened research could identify quantitative and qualitative sources that help reinforce the value of the “suggested” factors introduced in this briefing and in the Appendix.   


Implications for Further Work and FIRMA


            The implications of this review suggest that, in general, a mapping of consumer behaviour in Europe and the factors that affect it could be extremely useful for the development of the FIRMA model.  If common categories as well as place-specific categories could be established between the different European regions and the local case study communities then the model could realistically help to inform freshwater management policy at different scales with both historic and predictive evaluative authority.