CSU San Marcos Shares Findings of Joint Conservation Research Study with OMWD Board

At Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s November 4 board meeting, members of a California State University San Marcos psychology research team presented to OMWD’s Board of Directors the results of a behavioral science study regarding water conservation that was conducted over the summer.

The focus of the study was reducing water consumption in combination with behavioral science, yielding important data regarding water usage and conservation behavior among residential water utility customers. OMWD partnered with CSUSM to fund the study, which allowed OMWD to extend the breadth of its messaging efforts relating to drought implications and mandatory water use reductions imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board.

“This is a win-win partnership for both CSUSM and OMWD, which was very effective,” said Board President Ed Sprague. “We have had an opportunity to reduce water consumption throughout our service area, promote efforts to conserve water, and provide the academic community with important research data. The district and our ratepayers will benefit over the long term.”

While conducting the study, student interns from CSUSM spent over 1,700 hours canvassing neighborhoods throughout OMWD’s service area with door hangers designed to achieve the needs of the study, while also providing OMWD customers with information about the Level 2 Water Supply Shortage that they may not have already obtained through other channels of communication. The team reached more than 11,000 households, interacted with hundreds of residents, and received over one thousand signed commitments from residents to reduce water usage. The results of the study showed that households that received information about the collective conservation of their community conserved more water than households that did not. In addition, households that made a commitment to comply with water use restrictions saved more water than those who did not.

“Our work with OMWD shows the importance of highlighting the fact that most people in the region care about water conservation and are doing things to reduce their consumption,” explained Dr. Wesley Schultz, CSUSM Professor of Psychology and social psychologist, who directed the study and internship program. “This type of project is exactly what we want our university students to work on. In their classes, they learn about research and behavioral science, but it is through partnerships like the one we’ve established with OMWD where the students get to put what they’ve learned into action.”

Dr. Schultz’s research focuses on resource conservation and sustainability, and involved the application of behavioral science to create successful programs aimed at addressing environmental issues.

“Hosting CSUSM student interns has been very helpful as we continue the educational campaign to make customers aware of what they can do to lessen the impact of the drought,” stated Kimberly Thorner, OMWD’s General Manager. “OMWD has been mandated by the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce its water use by 32 percent, and the additional awareness that the CSUSM team has been able to generate has contributed to OMWD meeting this target to date.”