To combat the increasing demand on its existing water supply, the Regional Municipality of Durham created the water efficiency program, Water Efficient Durham, which aimed to convince homeowners to water their lawns a maximum of one inch per week, including rainfall, to reduce peak water consumption during the summer months. After conducting a literature review and a series of focus groups to uncover key barriers to participation, the region hired a consultant to develop and implement a student employee program that would use community-based social marketing (CBSM) tools to help homeowners reduce peak day summer water consumption. In 1997, a pilot of the project was launched to test the effectiveness of the student employee program versus more traditional methods of public education. Four separate study areas received different forms of intervention including: (1) a traditional mail out strategy, (2) master gardener volunteers that provided landscape assessments for homeowners, (3) the student employee approach to CBSM, and (4) a control group. Students monitored and timed watering habits of homeowners across all four study areas throughout the pilot with their observations revealing that the most effective method was the student employee program – a strategy that led to a 26% reduction in lawn watering. Additional studies in 1998, 2000, and 2001 eliminated the mail out and master gardener programs, focusing instead on expanding the student employee program and tweaking methodologies to test the effectiveness of different strategies within the realm of CBSM. Data collection methods for tracking lawn watering use evolved with each iteration of the program depending on available technology. By 2004, consistent results were being obtained with yard watering reductions leveling off around 17% and 80-90% participation rates in targeted neighborhoods.
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