Saving Water Using a Stages of Change Model with Smart Technology

EPA Grant Number: SU839273
Title: Saving Water Using a Stages of Change Model with Smart Technology
Investigators: Telenko, Cassandra
Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2017 through October 31, 2018
Project Amount: $14,995
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment


To understand more fully what strategies are most effective at creating smooth ecotechnology adoption and lasting behavior change, our device seeks to fill a gap in existing research by applying a phasic model for behavior change to the feedback provided by our device. The usage phase of products is often the most environmentally impactful, and by operationalizing the transtheoretic model for smart devices, we hope to establish an approach that can be used in various technologies to reduce consumption of water and other energy and materials. We focus on water in the home because it is the most intimate interaction with water and can most powerfully connect with and engage users to understand their relationship with such a basic resource. By reducing water consumption, air and other emissions from water treatment and processes can be reduced – reducing environmental impacts and human health impacts. Additionally, water is extremely expensive in the city of Atlanta due to aging infrastructure, and some residents are choosing between high water bills and grocery bills or other needs. By educating and instructing users about responsible water usage, our device helps to awaken individuals to the consequences of their own actions, and aims to increase their loci of control. Thus, the affected population will save money by using less water, their local water collection and delivery infrastructure will experience less stress and need fewer repairs, and local water resources such as rivers and reservoirs will remain bountiful.

This project engages students from two separate colleges on campus, the College of Engineering and College of Design, and seeks to includes students from College of Computing. It provides a unique opportunity to combine these fields in a real-world interdisciplinary project. Additionally, it allows a rare chance to design while interacting with human customers and the community. The device, when completed, has large potential for broad installation in many private and public venues. It will also likely be deployed in some degree on the Georgia Tech campus to demonstrate the project in one of the many student project expositions on campus.


The objective of this proposal is to facilitate sustainable water usage habits through a novel smart-feedback device. Across the globe, about 1 in 10 (or 700 million) people do not have any access to clean water. Yet Americans use about 99 gallons per person per day at home, over 5 times the necessary amount “needed lead a comfortable life”, or about 13 gallons a day per person. A 30% reduction of residential water use could save about 5.4 billion gallons of potable water a day. In order to help people use water more sustainably in-home, it is necessary to alter daily water-consuming activities. To achieve such changes, this project seeks to develop a more effective intervention method using a smart-feedback device.

An intervention is here defined as something that reaches out and affects a user. Researched interventions have taken the form of physical mail, email, web portals, informational pamphlets, labels, surveys, and devices. From the existing prototypes, it is clear that users rarely log into web portals, information alone is not effective, and that behavior changes may only last while the device is new. The proposed work will address these issues through implementation of a transtheoretic model of behavior change that is important to developing lasting habits.


This EPA P3 project will beta test an extant smart feedback device aimed at achieving sustainable practices at the kitchen sink using phases of behavior change. A prototype of this device has already been built and tested in a six household pilot study. The design of this device improves upon and differs from other conservation devices in literature (UpStream, WaterBot, Show-Me) in that it provides live-usage in addition to educational feedback that changes over time. This device is novel due to its operationalizing the psychological framework of behavior change, the transtheoretical model. Thus, our device seeks to answer important questions about what types of feedback may work best to achieve meaningful, lasting sustainable education and behavior change.

Expected Results:

At the close of the Phase I of the P3 project, we will deliver a redeveloped device, complete with many critical improvements upon the first iteration and the results of a second betatest of this new iteration in Atlanta homes. Behavior change in this beta test will be measured quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively: the device will record and measure each sink usage instance for the duration of the experiment (about 70 days) and we will then be able to tell how the water volume used per day changed throughout the study. Qualitatively: a survey, called the New Ecological Paradigm survey, will be given at the beginning and end of the experiment to the participants. This survey is designed to specifically measure an individual's ecological attitudes in five categories. These two surveys will be supplemented by a survey designed by us to gauge the success of the device’s redevelopment, measuring things like engagement, satisfaction with device, enjoyment, trust in the device, functionality, ergonomics, and accessibility.

Supplemental Keywords:

decision making, conservation, sustainability monitoring, water conservation, sustainable water management, drinking water

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final