Water Use Efficiency: A Review of Contextual and Behavioral Factors

Diana Carolina Callejas Moncaleano*, Saket Pande, Luuk Rietveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
139 Downloads (Pure)


Water withdrawals around the world have increased almost twice as fast as the population during the last century. Higher than expected water demand is leading to water scarcity and causing rapid depletion of water tables around the world. One reason behind the higher than expected demand is the inefficient use of water. Inefficient use of water affects the well-being of society, the economic stability of countries, and environmental health. Indeed, water use efficiency (WUE) is one of the pillars of sustainable development goals (SDG 6.4.1). However, progress toward achieving WUE is slow, especially for many developing countries where the degradation of natural resources is critical, economic growth is slow, and there are few strong institutions to coordinate actions. One reason behind inefficient water use is human behavior. A variety of contextual and psychological factors underlie the behavior. The contextual factors include socioeconomic, technical, institutional, and environmental factors and the behavioral factors include factors associated with the perception of risk, attitudes, norms, etc. Yet, few studies consider an integrated view of these factors in shaping water use behavior. This paper consolidates contextual and behavioral factors which influence water use, studies the gaps in our understanding of human water behavior underlying WUE and highlights the need to comprehensive assess and consistently measure such factors and their relationships. Based on the gaps identified, it proposes a conceptual model that connects contextual and behavioral factors and represents potential cause-effect relationships as supported by various environmental behavior approaches and psychological theories. Based on the literature review of water use, and conservation behavior, environmental psychology, and water use models, this model proposes an institutional factor to assess the relationship between institutions and stakeholders, and study contextual factors linked not only for individual water users but also studying these factors for individuals of water supply organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number685650
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Water
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • behavioral factors
  • contextual factors
  • human behavior
  • psychological factors
  • water use efficiency

Cite this