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Title: Reducing water consumption in low-cost housing areas in the eThekwini Municipality
Authors: Thakur, Rookmoney 
Keywords: Water consumption;Low-cost housing
Issue Date: 2021
South Africa is facing a water crisis and local municipalities are finding it difficult to
mitigate the gap between supply and demand. Although the government’s policy to
allocate a basic supply of 9kl of free water per month to indigent communities is
commendable, the rapid exhaustion of the free supply by low-income communities
necessitating a tariff applied for additional water consumption, is concerning. Whilst
this consumption-based tariff is used to encourage conservation, municipalities
nevertheless face a revenue loss due to a non-payment culture.
This study argues that behavioural change is more beneficial than punitive economic
measures and seeks to develop a strategic intervention to assist the eThekwini
municipality to promote water conservation behaviour in one low-income community,
called Waterloo. The Theory of reasoned action (TRA) is used to identify the beliefs,
attitudes and subjective social norms towards water conservation and the Nudge
Theory is used to incentivise water users towards behavioural change.
A mixed method exploratory sequential design method is adopted. The qualitative
phase of the study consists of semi-structured interviews with eight key informants
from government and the public sector; and four focus group discussions with 22
residents of the Waterloo community, to determine the factors that influence their
water-use behaviour.
Participation in this study was voluntary with confidentiality maintained. The data was
recorded and transcribed to ensure credibility. The results were interpreted and
analysed against existing literature using thematic content analysis.
The quantitative phase of the study investigates the power of the TRA. Results from a
survey comprising 304 residents indicate that low-income householders generally
have very positive attitudes towards water conservation and saving practices,
nonetheless these positive attitudes are not consistently translated into actual
In synthesising the results, three recurring key issues are identified, namely (1) access
to knowledge; (2) community engagement as part of the solution; and (3) allocation of
incentives. The key finding of study indicated that awareness of the current water
situation itself may not motivate good water use behaviour. While participants had
knowledge of water conservation practices, there was, however, a high amount of
water consumption and high unaccounted water losses in the area. Therefore,
nudging the community may be an ideal approach towards behavioural change.
The thesis concludes by proposing a community-based behavioural framework, as a
guideline for eThekwini to consider when designing conservation measures for low-income communities
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration - Peace Studies in the Faculty of Management Sciences at the Durban University of Technology, 2021.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Management Sciences)

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