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You are here: Use Water Wisely / Final Report 2002 / Follow-Up Study 2003 / Appendices 1 & 2

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Follow-Up 2003 - an assessment of the 2002 Project

Laura Backley & Edward Hallett, October 2003


The aim of the 2002 “Use Water Wisely” Project was to raise awareness of the link between water use and the environment, and where householder’s wastewater and rainwater goes, and the effect that it has on the Bourne Stream, and to try to reduce this effect.

The Bourne stream flows through Poole and Bournemouth for 8km. The stream flows through Industrial and residential areas and makes its way to the Bournemouth Pleasure Gardens, before it flows out into the sea at Bournemouth Pier.

900 homes within the Bourne Stream Catchment area were contacted via letter (appendix 1) with the offer of the installation of water butt, to allow residents to collect and use rainwater, thus delaying and reducing treated water reaching the stream. A free trigger for a hose was offered. There was the opportunity to have an assisted home survey carried out, to check the operation of toilet cisterns, adjust ball valves and fit save-a-flush hog bags where appropriate (new washers were also fitted on any taps found to be leaking), and an audit of the property was also offered to determine whether or not the householder would save money with the use of a water meter. After the audit or home survey the gift of a tea towel with the “Use Water Wisely” message printed on it was left with the householder, and a shower timer, similar to an egg timer, was also offered. It was the aim of the Bourne Stream Partnership to achieve 150 positive responses to the Project.

B&Q also displayed boards outside their Wallisdown store advertising the project, and an incentive of £25 of B&Q vouchers were offered in a prize draw of all those who responded.

All of the offers were free, and any installation or survey was also done free of charge.

Although 900 homes were contacted in the upper Catchment area of the stream, there was a very poor response rate, and so the project had to be extended to 4,759 homes over a period of several months in order to achieve the desired 150 responses. This was an overall response rate of just over 3% of those mailed.

In order to determine why the 2002 “Use Water Wisely” Project received such a poor response rate it was decided to contact some of the residents who had been mailed, but not responded, in order to determine why the response rate had been so low.

To do this, First Year BSc Applied Geography students from Bournemouth University were asked to produce a questionnaire, which would cover four main objectives. These objectives would allow us not only to determine why the response rate was lower than expected, but also how the general public would prefer to be approached in the future and therefore achieve a higher response rate for future projects.

The Objectives were to determine;

  • Why the “Use Water Wisely” Project struggled to achieve its target response rate of 150 homes

  • What could be done differently in the future to make similar projects more successful/eye catching

  • The Wider Environmental issue, i.e. the residents attitude towards the environment

  • The preferred route of communication

Once the questionnaire had been produced to our recommendations (appendix 2), the students were given designated areas in which to collect their results. Initially 204 questionnaires were carried out but it was decided that this fell short of the required sample for this study and therefore a further 96 questionnaires were carried out. This gave a total of 300, which is a representative sample of 6.3% of the total number contacted (appendix 3).  

These questionnaires were then analysed and put into graphs (appendix 4) to help illustrate the resident’s responses. It was then decided to break the results down into two areas. Area one was all properties within 200 metres of the Bourne Stream. Area 2 was outside of this boundary line (appendix 5). In order to determine whether or not there were any differences in response between the two areas a Chi-squared test was used (appendix 7).

The results from the survey were also broken down into age categories (appendix 8) and again a Chi-squared test was used to determine any differences in responses according to age (appendix 9).  

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Critique of the 2002 “Use Water Wisely” Project

The customer was asked to call Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water between 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday if they wished to take part in the offer (appendix 1). This could have led towards the poor response as most people are at work in-between the hours so were unavailable to call.

The similar Project carried out in Christchurch had a response rate of 50%, compared to The “Use Water Wisely” Projects final response of just 3%. This appears to be due to the fact that the homes contacted during the Christchurch Project were contacted on a number of occasions via letters, phone calls, and door to door visits. The “Use Water Wisely” Project only contacted the customers once via a letter. Therefore a comparison between the two response rates should not really be made.

It was the aim of the Project to raise resident’s awareness of the stream, and inform them of actions they can take to improve its quality. It is unlikely that most residents view the Bourne Stream as something they actively use, and therefore this may not be a way in interesting them in working to improve its quality.

The Bournemouth and West Hampshire logo at the top of the letter may have given the appearance of a bill. People may be less suspicious of an organisation they do not pay money to such as the Bourne Stream Partnership. The first 1,000 letters had the Bourne Stream shield printed on them but subsequent letters were the standard water company headed paper to reduce costs. The first 1000 letters had a response rate of 4.96%, compared to an overall response of 3.14% for the whole Project.

The first line of the letter is “We want you to help us save water”. When trying to get peoples attention and get them to read on, the prospect of helping a company they pay a fixed charge to (when the resident is not metered), regardless of the amount of water they use, may not encourage potential respondents to do so.

The letter offers the free devices to the first 150 respondents. This may have meant people assumed that there was not much chance of being one of the first 150 to call and so did not respond.

The letter offers a water efficiency audit on the property. The word audit could have caused some people to think of it as an inspection, or sounding to official, and this could have put people off.

The tea towel carries the message – “Don’t drain the river”. This is not really the issue with the Bourne Stream. This may confuse people with the real issue of trying to reduce treated water reaching the stream.

The residents were mailed regarding the “Use Water Wisely” Project between the months of July and December. The homes mailed between July and September achieved a response rate of 4.21%, compared to a response rate of 1.67% for residents mailed between October and December. The reason for this may be that most residents work on their homes and gardens mainly in the Spring and summer months and the concept of saving water during the rainy winter months is unlikely to seem a pressing issue.top of page


The first question asked by the survey was “Do you remember receiving this letter from Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water?” (A copy of the letter was shown to the householder). Only 40% of those surveyed remembered receiving the letter.

Question two of the survey asked the residents what the reason was for not taking up Bournemouth & West Hampshire Waters offer. Of those 40% that did remember getting the letter, the biggest reason for not taking up the offer was simply that they were not interested.  This could be due to the fact that the letter was not clear in enough in stating the free offers and their benefits to the householder.

The second most popular reason was people did not have the time to take up the offer, this accounted for 25% of answers, and 16% of residents surveyed did not take up the offer as they were suspicious of Bournemouth & West Hampshire Waters motives, and so perhaps did not feel the offer was genuine.

Two people surveyed during the follow up Project did not hear back from Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water after responding to the letter (one of these of these queries has since been confirmed). If 2 residents did not hear back out of a sample of 300 (6.3%) there could have been others in the 4,759 contacted.

Residents were then asked “how would you prefer to be informed of these genuine offers (those outlined in the letter) if there was a similar Project in the future?” The highest response to this question was via a letter or flyer. This is likely to be because this is the easiest and least invasive form of communication, but unfortunately, as the Project demonstrated this is not one of the most successful forms of communication in terms of a positive response. The third highest response was face-to-face contact. Although not the most time efficient form of communication, it appears it would be successful. When students from Bournemouth University carried out the survey of those homes that did not respond 78% of those surveyed said they would be interested in a similar Project if one arose in the future. It appears that not only does the face to face approach ensure people listen and absorb the message/offer but it also gives them the opportunity to ask questions which might have otherwise have put them off from responding.

The fourth most popular response to this question was radio, but this would not be a feasible option, as not only are the costs of radio advertising too high but it is likely that a large proportion of those that did respond to the advert would not actually be in the catchment area and so not eligible to take up the offer.

81% of those surveyed said that they did believe that the use of water saving measures did have a positive effect on the environment. This is encouraging as it shows that residents realise that individuals being environmentally friendly can have an effect as a whole.

Of the 75% of people who said that they did recycle, 80% said they did so for environmental reasons, but 14% said they recycled because the council collected recyclable material.

Poole Borough Council does carry out a free recycling service for the majority of homes within the area surveyed, so it may well be that of the 80% who said they recycled to help the environment, whilst their intentions were good it was in fact because of the ease in which they could recycle that prompted them to do so i.e. because the council provided the service for them. This is backed up by the fact that of the materials people said they recycled the three biggest materials recycled were Bottles, Newspapers and Plastic, which are the items that the council arranges collection and recycling of.

Residents were asked whether or not they already had some form of water saving device in their home or garden. The results were split exactly 50/50. The fact that half the residents already had water saving devices reinforces the finding that residents believe that these devices have a positive effect on the environment.

Of those that said yes 54% already had water butts in their gardens, 20% had cistern displacement devices such as a Hippo bag in their cisterns and 18% had trigger hoses.

37.5% of the residents, who said that they did not respond to the letter because they were not interested, already had water saving devices. They may have given this response because of the fact that they already had these devices, leading to a lower response rate.

42% of those who had water saving devices said that their main motivation for using them was environmental, where as 26% said economic and 28% a combination of environmental and economic.

Only 44% of those surveyed had heard of the Bourne Stream Partnership before. This may not seem a significant number, but the original ““Use Water Wisely”” Project determined that only 19.7% of residents had heard of the Bourne Stream Partnership before the Project, therefore ““Use Water Wisely”” has succeeded in doubling the number of residents aware of the Partnership.

When asked to indicate on a map where the Bourne Stream ran, only 34% of residents had an accurate idea and the majority of these residents were the ones who lived on roads where the Bourne Stream is visible i.e. Coy Pond Road. This may show that many of the residents do not think of the Bourne Stream as a local amenity, or use it regularly for walking / cycling etc. This may mean people are less concerned about the quality of the stream and their impact upon it.

As previously mentioned, most people used water saving devices for either economic or a combination of environmental and economic reasons. When asked how their attention could be grabbed by future campaigns, the highest response (31%) was by financial incentives.

The Chi-squared tests used to compare results between Area 1 and Area 2 proved that there was no significant difference in the results of the two areas (appendix 7). When the chi-squared test was used to look for differences between the results of difference age groups, again no significant difference was found (appendix 9). This means that no one area or age group has significantly different responses and attitudes towards water conservation and the Bourne Stream. However, the Response Hotspots map shows that all the hotspots of 4 or more responses to the original Project are in close proximity to the stream. This shows that these residents are not more environmentally friendly than the residents who live further away, but maybe are more aware of the stream and use it regularly for walking etc and so responded for this reason.top of page


Letters such as the one used for this project need to be more eye catching in the future or maybe come in a different form i.e. “here is a free Save-a-flush hog bag for your cistern (and list the benefits to the resident by using it), for more free water saving devices, installed at your convenience, ring this number”.

For more success in future campaigns more effort should be made to make it as simple as possible for people to respond. For example, those wishing to take up the offer were asked to call during office hours (9am – 5pm). Most people are themselves in the office or at work at this time and so it is very difficult to be able to use the phone for a personal call.  It would therefore be more suitable to either offer a weekend or evening time in which people can call or perhaps rather than ask people to call back, the letter could be followed up with a face to face visit or where possible, a telephone call.

Attention should be focused on ease of response for the residents i.e. via pre-paid envelope or evening and weekend call times.

For future projects the most successful route may therefore be to send out an introductory letter outlining the offer and its benefits clearly, and then giving a phone number, which can be contacted day or evening, and on weekends to arrange to take up the offer. Then as a follow up Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water could work with Bournemouth University to arrange for 1st year students, such as those from BSc Applied Geography and BSc Environmental Protection to carry out a follow up house call were they can again inform the householder of the offers but would also have the means by which to take contact details of those interested so that Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water could arrange to install those products requested etc.

The success of this repeated contact is demonstrated by the similar project carried out in Christchurch were householders were contacted a number of times via a letter then face to face and where possible, by telephone. In this project the response rate was a staggering 50%, likely to be due to the fact that the constant reminder of the offer and opportunities to ask questions etc meant that more people understood that the offer was genuine and that they really would benefit from it.

The use of Bournemouth University students would mean no labour costs for Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water, whilst also benefiting the students who throughout their degree have to produce and carry out a number of surveys and so the practise would be invaluable to them.

Future campaigns should perhaps not only focus on the environmental benefits to the householder and the environment but also on the economic benefits to the householder by using the water saving devices as this is more likely to grab the householders attention and keep them interested.

Perhaps future campaigns would be more successful if letters came on Bourne Stream Partnership headed paper instead of Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water paper as this would not only raise awareness of the partnership itself but it would also help make residents less suspicious of “hidden motives”.

By raising local awareness of the Bourne Stream Partnership it could in turn raise awareness of how close the stream ran to may residents homes who were previously unaware. One way of raising awareness could perhaps be to have a stall at the annual Coy Pond Road fete, held on the green through which the Bourne Stream runs. The fete is well advertised in the local area and many local residents go to the fete, this would therefore be the perfect opportunity to hand out information and take contact details of those residents who wanted to take part in future offers.

It appears then that future campaigns should focus less on “We want you to help us save water” and more on what the Bourne Stream Partnership and Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water can do for the residents.

Residents should be mailed in spring and early summer months.top of page


Although the success of this project has been seen as limited in terms of the response rate, this should not be the only way success is measured. The project also set out to promote the water conservation message, encourage the use of water saving devices and to promote and publicise the Bourne Stream Partnership.

Although these indicators can be difficult to measure, as a result of the “Use Water Wisely” Project, nearly 450 residents in the area have had information regarding the water conservation message that the Bourne Stream Partnership wished to promote. 142 people of those originally contacted, and took up the offer, have become aware of the water conservation message and 300 people, contacted during this follow up survey have now also received information regarding water conservation. This included the “don’t drain our river” tea towels, triggers for garden hoses, and information leaflets, which were handed out to both the original residents who took up the offer, and some of those who took part in the follow up questionnaire.

The follow up survey also showed that many of those who did not take up the “Use Water Wisely” offer because they already had water saving devices in their homes or gardens. This is encouraging as it means that the project was not promoting a new message, but simply backing up a message, which people are already acting upon.

The original project identified that 20% of the people surveyed had heard of the Bourne Stream Partnership. A year later the follow up project has established that 44% of residents are now aware of the Partnership, and this level of increase in awareness must be in part attributed to the “Use Water Wisely” Project.

The 2002 “Use Water Wisely” Project was not an overwhelming success, but it was by no means a failure and by making a few changes that have been highlighted by this follow up report, there is no reason why projects in the future cannot be even more successful.top of page


Appendix 1. Text of original letter sent by the Use Water Wisely project.

Appendix 2. Questionnaire

Appendices available only as (170kb):

Appendix 4. Questionnaire results graphs.

Appendix 6. Area 1 / Area 2 graphs.

Appendix 8. Age group variations graphs.  

Appendix 3. Questionnaire results database - unavailable online

Appendix 5. Hotspots, coldspots and Area 1 / Area 2 maps - unavailable online

Appendix 7. Statistical analysis of Area 1 / Area 2 results - unavailable online

Appendix 9. Statistical analysis of age group results - unavailable online

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