C4.3 Information and transparency for raising awareness
As many water issues need broad public support and understanding, creating water awareness is increasingly seen as being important. Information is a powerful tool for raising awareness and empowerment through:
The aim is to engage the public in such issues as: water conservation; hygienic water use; preservation of wet ecosystems; water user awareness; developing self-regulating water institutions; increasing the willingness to pay or contributions to water services; awareness for planning for emergencies, and strengthening political will (also B1.9). Ideally, public awareness is not one-way communication, but an interaction of many active stakeholders, who influence each other and provide social control by mutually reinforcing, agreed sets of values.
Water campaigns can use a number of communication methods such as:
Choices need to be made on the reach of the campaign, the target group, the desired change in perception and/or behaviour and the likely influence of the target group on the campaign outcomes.
Public Access to information has been powerful in raising environmental awareness. Example include the Toxic Release Inventory in the US where companies are required to publish lists of all toxic emissions, which can then be used in other campaigns by, for example, NGOs and lobby groups. In the water domain, a requirement to publish information can powerfully reinforce other policy tools such as pollution charges (as happened in Germany), or in the PROPER programme in Indonesia (Shamon David and Wheeler David, Controlling industrial pollution in the developing world, Environmental Quality Management, 69, 70, 1988). They can also be linked to standards to trade, putting pressure on exporters to improve practice.
Product labelling or environmental certification is a useful tool for raising awareness. ‘Blue’ and ‘green’ labels have been used in water saving devices and eco-friendly products and services. They have encouraged changes in consumption patterns and triggered industries to adopt new standards in often essentially traditional markets like plumbing fixtures or water conveyance. Performance indicators and descriptions on product labels (e.g. showing water consumed in washing machine cycles) are tools which provide information to consumers of water using appliances. Product labelling can encourage industry to adopt new standards and essentially transform traditional markets. This sort of product labelling introduces a profit motive into conservation, and can change producer and consumer behaviour (see also C6 and B2.1). Environmental Management Systems (EMS) such as ISO 14000 use information and declaration of performance to encourage improved practices.