Water Resources Management

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 1013-1035

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Developing Novel Approaches to Tracking Domestic Water Demand Under Uncertainty—A Reflection on the “Up Scaling” of Social Science Approaches in the United Kingdom

  • Alison L BrowneAffiliated withLancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University Email author 
  • , Will MeddAffiliated withLancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University
  • , Ben AndersonAffiliated withCentre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation, Essex University


Climate change, socio-demographic change and changing patterns of ordinary consumption are creating new and unpredictable pressures on urban water resources in the UK. While demand management is currently offered as a first option for managing supply/demand deficit, the uncertainties around demand and its’ potential trajectories are problematic for water resources research, planning and policy. In this article we review the ways in which particular branches of social science come together to offer a model of ‘distributed demand’ that helps explain these current and future uncertainties. We also identify potential strategies for tracking where the drivers of change for demand may lie. Rather than suggest an alternative ‘demand forecasting’ technique, we propose methodological approaches that ‘stretch out’ and ‘scale up’ proxy measures of demand to inform water resources planning and policy. These proxy measurements could act as ‘indictors of change’ to water demand at a population level that could then be used to inform research and policy strategies. We conclude by arguing for the need to recognise the co-production of demand futures and supply trajectories.


Water demand Practices Socio-technical systems Climate change UK