Fresh water is a limited resource under anthropogenic threat. Europeans are using an average of 3550 L per capita per day and this amount is increasing steadily as incomes rise. Water saving options are being actively promoted, but these intensified measures do not yet come close to saving enough water to prevent water shortages that may seriously affect our way of life in the near future. With projected increases in demands for good quality fresh water, educating the public about sustainable personal water use and water quality threats becomes an absolute necessity. One way to achieve this is through engaging citizens in water issues, e.g. through citizen science projects. Using snowball convenience sampling, we distributed a questionnaire among 498 people in 23 countries to investigate whether people were aware of how much water they used, what they perceived as threats to water quality and whether they would like to help improve water quality. Our results showed that the amount of daily water use was greatly underestimated among respondents, especially indirect use of water for the production of goods and services. Furthermore, the effects of climate change and detrimental habits such as feeding ducks were underestimated, presumably because of environmental illiteracy. However, eighty-five percent (85%) of our participants indicated an interest in directly working together with scientists to understand and improve their local water quality. Involving citizens in improving local lake quality promotes both environmental and scientific literacy, and can therefore result in a reduction in daily personal water use. The next iteration of the Water Framework Directive legislation will be launched shortly, requiring water managers to include citizens in their monitoring schemes. Engaging citizens will not only help improve surface water quality, and educate about cause and effect chains in water quality, but will also reduce the personal fresh water usage.
Seelen, L., Flaim, G., Jennings, E., & de Senerpont Domis, L. (2019). Saving water for the future: public awareness of water usage and water quality. Journal of Environmental Management, 242(15 July 2019), 246-257. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.04.047