In the European Union (EU), the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) is based on the idea that water management needs to take account of economic, ecological and social issues and that its prime objective is the sustainable use and management of water resources. Throughout the EU there is growing concern regarding drought events and water scarcity. Policymakers therefore face the challenge of balancing the increasing human demand for water and the protection of the ecosystems’ sustainability. Residential customers account for the majority of water demand in urban areas, mainly through household appliances, such as baths and washing machines. Implementing actions aimed at reducing water demand can deliver potential benefits not only at economic and financial levels, but also considering environmental and social purposes. Water conservation generally refers to the technical water savings that can be achieved through a particular technology or policy intervention. Sustainable use of water resources may be defined as a “pattern of use which ensures satisfaction of needs for both the present and future generations” (Bithas, 2008: 222). Water conservation policies can have different characteristics and use a variety of instruments, all of which should encourage the efficient use of resources (Bithas, 2008). These instruments include supply restriction, water pricing, incentives for the implementation of high-efficiency household appliances and information campaigns to improve the knowledge of activities useful in reducing water consumption. Since a number of environmental problems, including water scarcity, are caused by consumer lifestyles, it is necessary to raise water conservation awareness and the knowledge of daily life activities that are useful in reducing water consumption. Information campaigns motivate households to attempt to implement more water-efficient behaviors, and provide information on how to reduce usage. Nieswiadomy (1992) and Renwick and Green (2000) found that public education campaigns have reduced water usage. Furthermore, as argued by Barrett (2004), although it is true that higher prices will encourage better water use, without the assistance of non-price measures, price increases may become only a means of raising water-utility revenues rather than reducing water consumption.
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