Slowing the Flow: A framework for councils

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Our research, and other studies overseas, suggests that there is a pathway to make water demand management a successful alternative to simply providing new supply sources.  Many demand management programmes are already carried out in New Zealand but we believe that more needs to be done.

We’ve developed a framework to guide the development of water demand management strategies and policies.  Based on our research, Slowing the Flow is a comprehensive demand management framework for all working with reticulated water supply.

The framework recognises that local contexts such as demographics, climate and political environment will affect which demand management interventions are best adopted.  It also recognises that, while any strategy to reduce water demand must include education and awareness-raising, other forms of policy including supportive regulation or economic instruments are required to have a significant impact.


What does the framework do?

The framework helps councils to work through the options for demand management:


a. Mandatory water metering: Volumetric-based pricing and a structure of tariffs and rebates can incentivise individual households to reduce consumption. Without knowledge of usage levels, consumers have no idea how much water they use or what it really costs to produce what flows from the tap.  Studies show that introduction of metering reduces demand.

b. Education programmes: While not sufficient alone, they can play a major part in encouraging individual action if operated in conjunction with pricing policies, technical information and support (even financial). Clear individual cost-benefit explanation in terms of both water rates and reduced general rate increases is essential.   


c. Individual action: Encouraged by both education and the regular impact of visible charges as a result of inaction, individual households can be led to recognise the value of positive action on their own behalf. At the low-cost end, discrete items include eliminating leaks, installing dual flush toilets, using low flow showers and taps and slowly moving to formally rated, water efficient appliances.

Greater levels of payback are achievable although they are based on more major investments and may require short-term financial support. Capturing local rainfall for non-potable purposes can contribute up to 40% reduction in demand for reticulated supply and some councils are already encouraging this. A valuable by-product of rainfall collection is that it also reduces the pressure on stormwater systems.        

Another good investment is the capturing of grey water (from showers and washing machines) for use in toilet flushing or outdoor irrigation. Most proprietary brands have dealt with concerns by Health Authorities as long as adequate maintenance is carried out.


d. Regulations: While retrofitting in existing dwellings may be largely voluntary (and subject to other encouragement), regulations may be used to make certain requirements mandatory in new structures, thus ensuring the housing stock is slowly shifting towards new levels of efficiency.



  • 07-Jan-2008 (Publication WA7060/4)

    Slowing the Flow: A Comprehensive Demand Management Framework for Reticulated Water Supply (PDF 1.4MB)

    Maggie Lawton, Damon Birchfield, Dorothy Wilson

    Based on research, this publication provides a comprehensive demand management framework for all working with reticulated water supply. Slowing the Flow recognises the complex issues in meeting increasing demand, controlling costs (hence pressure on rates), conserving a scarce resource and adopting fresh thinking while maximising the benefits of new technologies.

Slowing the Flow: A Comprehensive Demand Management Framework