Water Contact Profile (WCP) UniSearch De Wet Schutte-UniSearch Community Development Consultants


UniSearch Community Development Consultants

Water Contact Profile (WCP)


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Water_tapThe Water Contact Profile (WCP) is a community water valuing assessment tool that was developed by Dr De Wet Schutte to focus more on the much-needed human behavioural aspect in our daily interaction with this precious and life-giving element. This concept originated in the conclusion from a study of numerous water-related research reports across disciplines, that water consumption information alone is not enough to design water behavioural change programmes as water contact reflects on human behaviour associated with water consumption. The latter seems to be largely absent or neglected in the water-related research information base. Whereas the water usage usually gives the reader information on the (measured) amount of water supplied to a household, it serves to little information about the users’ interaction/behaviour with the measured water supplied, or the natural water source he/ she came into contact with. The WCP is not a fluid intake measurement, as its purpose is to focus on the domestic use of water. Therefore, bottled cool drinks are excluded in the WCP, but preparing tee/ coffee in the kitchen is included in the WCP. The WCP was inspired by, and purposefully designed to accommodate the full spectrum of living conditions in typical developing environments, which include both the underdeveloped and developed extremes of living conditions in order to navigate and fine-tune the design of water intervention/education programmes.

image010To adapt/change human behaviour, we simply need more information regarding people’s water usage than only the measured amount of water. Surely a different approach to convince people to save water is needed for those that use bottled water for drinking, as for those that use tap water for drinking. The same argument applies in educating people with access to flush toilets, and people using pit latrines or any other form of non-water borne sewerage system. At the same time, it is known that water-related health risks are directly linked to people’s water contact habits and practices. Therefore, the full WCP gives information regarding the active (i) values system related to water and distinguishes between the further three primary levels of water contact in the household, namely (ii) direct intake, (iii) only skin contact and (iv) derivative contact with water. The latter indicates some form of interaction/use of water without skin contact. If a rural community only drinks water from a natural resource, the risk of waterborne gastro infections would be higher compared to people living in a community with chlorinated water from a tap, or only drinking bottled water.

2UntitledThe WCP consists of two constructs of information presented as two separate, but complementary profiles of the human dimension associated with water. The first construct uses the associative group analysis (AGA) technique, and the second presents a reconstruction of the individual’s direct interaction with water(DIW)as an element using the 24-hour recall technique. The information captured using these two techniques provides the much-needed information to understand people’s water associated behaviour. It is only through a better understanding of a target population’s WCP that the areas where behavioural change projects have the potential to succeed or fail are brought to light.

1UntitledA water contact profile (WCP) is a prescribed profiling technique based on scientific methodology designed to give decision-makers basic human behavioural information related to the target population’s interaction with water under four broad headings, namely (i) the values system pertaining to water, (ii) water intake, (iii) skin contact with water and (iv) derivative water contact. The first heading above is augmented by using the AGA technique with “water” as the object of evaluation. The last three broad profiling categories of the WCP are recorded by using the 24-hour recall technique on 17 profiling domestic water-related activities clustered under three broad themes. For this purpose, data is collected from randomly selected respondents from the target community. The 24-hour recall information is collected through face-to-face interviews, a self-administered questionnaire, or a real-time digital data collection technique (cell phone app), pending the circumstances, the target population dictates. To include the variable weights (in terms of frequency) that the different water contact activities reveal, the percentage contact is not calculated out of the total number of respondents, but the total number of contact incidents recorded linked to the specific category of contact reported by the respondents. The advantage of using this calculation is that it reflects the relative weights of water usage as reflected in the water contact profile.

The descriptive nature of the selected categories as reflected in the WCP is specifically aimed at fine-tuning educational and/or behavioural change programmes regarding water use. It can also serve as a pre-intervention water contact profile (baseline information) to monitor the possible effects of intervention programmes in the community. It further provides water contact behavioural information for interpretation in a multi-disciplinary intervention environment such as engineers, public health scientists, as well as pointers to entrepreneurs for business opportunities alike. It is important to note that the WCP is not a water use profile designed to give information regarding the amount of water used in a specific target community. The purpose of the WCP is to unveil the active values system and behaviour of the people in a target community, related to their water use habits to assist with values and/or behavioural change programmes regarding water use, based upon the understanding of the nature, purpose and circumstances in which the people use water during a normal day. Such information is clearly indispensable for the design of any behavioural change intervention programme. In developing the WCP, a deliberate decision was made to avoid irrelevant detail, but at the same time maintain and focus on the accepted distinct and unique characteristics of individual communities. The theoretical base of the identified variables is founded on the typical living conditions covering both informal and formal housing environments, as well as the typical rural and urban living conditions. This tool is suitable to profile and make informed comparisons between communities, cities, provinces and countries, and serve as a monitoring tool to measure progress made with intervention programmes. The WCP provides the answer to the general lack of information regarding the human behavioural aspect in managing the available water resources for human consumption.


Our decisions are only as good as the information it is based upon…