Concerns about water scarcity have prompted the U.S Interior and Agriculture Departments to pledge almost $50 million in new public investments in an effort to reduce water waste and increase efficiency. However, even with these large financial pushes to improve water conservation in the U.S., improvements in technology may not be the answer. Why? Human behavior is complex. In an op-ed written for Bloomberg View, CBEAR co-director Paul Ferraro writes that “cutting edge techniques to increase water efficiency are designed and tested by agricultural scientists and engineers. This research usually focuses on the performance of new technologies and practices, with human behavior held constant. When human behavior enters into the mix, the results may look quite different.”
Ferraro examines some instances where human behavior changes the intended impacts of new programs. He advocates for the use of behavioral insights and evidence-based policy for governments to design programs and policies that will successfully achieve water conservation goals. This push for evidence based programs that are informed by insights from the behavioral sciences aligns with President Obama’s September 2015 call for the incorporation of behavioral insights in government programs, and his evidence-based policy agenda. With the establishment of CBEAR and other similar research centers, more behavioral insights can be generated to create evidence-based policy, to ultimately create better programs.