The University of Sheffield
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The longest way round is the shortest road home: communicating rain management

posted on 2023-08-02, 09:15 authored by Christine Sefton, Liz SharpLiz Sharp

This report provides new approach for how water authorities and environmental NGOs can communicate and work with the public to manage water and adapt to climate change risks. We focus on how the public can be influenced to manage rain on their properties to slow the flow into drains and reduce domestic water use. We use the term 'rain management' rather than 'rainwater harvesting' because the term encompasses more than just water efficiency and includes rain gardens.    

The research reported draws on the communiity engagement aspects of three consecutive projects in Hull and East Riding, undertaken between 2019 and 2023. Our cases were five buildings used by the public in neighbourhoods of varying socio-economic status. Working collaboratively with each building's community, we undertook action research to support rain management and to evaluate the effect of our work.  This work was carried out with ethical approval from the University of Sheffield (numbers 025556, 036544, 051329). Consent and permission for reuse of photographs was obtained from all participants or their parents.

The research found that face to face conversations were the most effective way of communicating rain management. Opportunities for such communications occured through interactive activities and events that brought people together in small groups, cascading messages through word of mouth and collective activity.  The work indicated that venacular language like 'rain management' was more effective at communicating with the public than technical terms like 'water efficiency'. The research also indicated the need to focus on the benefits of rain management (e.g. growing plants) rather than the problems potentially avoided (e.g. floods).


Mobilising Citizens for Adaptation: building local flood resilience through cooperative rainwater harvesting (MOCA)

UK Research and Innovation

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Mobilising Adaptation: Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction (Topic B)

UK Research and Innovation

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Communicating Rain Management, funded by UKRI via the University of Sheffield's internal Knowledge Exchange Scheme



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