Journal of Public Health

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 71–79

Which psychological factors change when habitual water treatment practices alter?

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10389-011-0435-1

Cite this article as:
Mosler, HJ. & Kraemer, S. J Public Health (2012) 20: 71. doi:10.1007/s10389-011-0435-1



Household water treatment systems (HWTS) and safe storage systems are an effective measure to ensure safe water supply. The adoption of HWTS requires long-term changes in behavior. During campaigns for health related behavior change, many people appear to have fixed behavioral patterns that are difficult to change. Since behavior change originates in the altering of inner psychological factors, it is necessary to investigate the transformation of these factors. Five categories of psychological factors are identified as responsible for the formation of habitual behavior: risk beliefs, attitudinal beliefs, normative beliefs, ability beliefs, and maintenance beliefs. This study analyzes which factors change when long-term users of HWTS, non-users, or ‘tryers’ (using HWTS occasionally), transform their behavior type or remain in their current behavior type.

Subjects and methods

Data were obtained by conducting six panel interviews about the use of solar water disinfection (SODIS) over a period of 14 months, with 694 households, in the slum areas of Harare, Zimbabwe.


The results reveal that progressing to a higher level of user type (one who increases their use of SODIS), or staying at a high level of use (maintaining their level of use) is associated with the user’s ability to avoid being hindered by other habits, to remember the behavior in respective situations, and to notice that other people are also using SODIS.


Suggested strategies which may foster these factors include the control of distracting stimuli, forming implementation intentions, daily routine planning, applying reminders, and using public commitments.


Household water treatmentAdoptionBehavior changeHabits

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of System AnalysisEawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologyDuebendorfSwitzerland