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The Attitudes And Perceptions Of Scotland Towards Rainwater Harvesting (rwh)

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Selina Egyir, Caroline Brown, Scott Arthur
Heriot-Watt University1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 14: Valuing water: monetary and non-monetary dimensions,

a. Background

Water Supply Companies in the United Kingdom (UK) spend approximately £10 billion removing urban run-off from developments and importing treated water for consumption (Caffoor, 2008). Within the context of changing climate and reducing carbon footprints, this situation is not compatible with sustainable development. Despite the common perception that it rains a lot in Scotland, the water resources are under pressure. A high volume of water is taken from the environment for human use which utilizes high amount of energy to transport and treat good quality water for human consumption. We need to plan carefully for the future to ensure reliable water supplies are available for everyone whilst protecting the natural environment (EA, 2010).

Water saving scheme; Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) can reduce the dependence on the mains water supply and reduce flooding. There is therefore a need for a framework which bridges the gap between socio-economic acceptance, attitudes and perceptions towards RWH.

b. Aim

Mimicking the carbon neutral agenda, the presented research aims to explore the feasibility of water neutral development in some selected peri-urban areas in Scotland. Water saving scheme; RWH; part of the water neutral agenda is being used to explore the social acceptability of households.

c. Specific objectives

To explore social and technical adaptations of RWH in Scotland; to analyse behaviour, attitudes and perception of RWH in Scotland and to understand people's perceptions on climate change and its effects on their source of water supply.


The main research questions set were: "Scottish Private Water Supply (PWS) householders would have a good attitude towards water saving and conservation due to constant maintenance and ensuring good quality of their water for domestic purposes so they would be more inclined to have a positive attitude towards RWH, a water neutral development concept"; "Scottish PWS users will be more concerned about the effects of climate change on their source of PWS than those on public mains supply". To answer the research questions a survey was developed to collect data from three local authority areas (Aberdeenshire, Scottish Borders and Highlands) which had the highest users of PWS in Scotland. The questionnaires were administered randomly to households in the selected case study and the responses received from the survey were processed to answer the overall research questions.


The expectant response rate was 20% in all the case study areas. In Scottish Borders and Highlands, the expected response rate was 26% exceeding the targeted response rate; but for Aberdeenshire it was 18% response rate which was marginally below the target.

a. Socio-economic and technical adaptations of RWH in Scotland

It was observed that participants were neutral in all the three study areas to implement RWH if it would reduce their water bill because they believed water in Scotland was free thus it was not an enough incentive to implement RWH. This can be linked to the reason why participants were unlikely to implement RWH if it was to be paid by them but they were willing to consider it if it was easy to use, were given a grant and would ensure constant supply of water (Table 1).

Most respondents were neither enthused to implement RWH in their house if their neighbour had it nor if it was a community set-up; most houses had no neighbours. The closest neighbour expressed by most participants was within 0.5 km. The observation between having a community set up and a set up for their own house were relatively similar (Table 2).

b. Behaviour, attitudes and perception of RWH in Scotland

It was observed that participants in all the study areas were unlikely to use RWH for domestic purposes like drinking, bathing, dishes and laundry but found RWH to be acceptable for bathing, laundry and dishes except drinking. They were likely to use RWH for gardening, car washing and toilet flushing and found RWH to be perfectly acceptable for these purposes (Table 3).

c. To understand people's perceptions on climate change and its effects on their source of water supply

It was observed that most of the participants were aware of climate change but did not believe it was happening and if it was it has been beneficial to them and cannot affect their source of PWS (Table 4).

There were diverse views on climate change happening and most people related it to government and private companies' agenda to create complex policies. But majority of participants were willing to reduce the impact of climate change if it will affect their source of PWS (Table 5).


Over all, the receptivity to RWH was negative as participants surveyed demonstrated they were overwhelming unlikely to install RWH. Participants were also aware of climate change but they believed it will happen in a 100 years from now or when they were dead. But they were willing to take part in focus group discussion to learn more on RWH and asked for help in installation if climate change will have an impact on their source of PWS. Caffoor, I. (2008) Energy efficient water and wastewater treatment. Priority Technology Area 3. Energy Efficient Environmental Knowledge Transfer Networks. Energy Efficient Water & Wastewater Treatment (EEWWWT) business case pdf file.

Environment Agency (EA) (2001). A Scenario Approach to Water Demand Forecasting, NationalWater Demand Management Centre, Worthing.

2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin