Skip to content

Reshaping incentives: Encouraging tap water instead of bottled water

Much of the neoinstitutional and rational choice theory work that I’ve read has focused on incentive structures, rules and how these shape norms, behaviours and attitude changes in individuals. My research has examined behavioural change, but mostly from the perspective of industrial factory owners and their decision-making processes when confronted with tight environmental regulation. In my newest project, I am looking at how tap water and bottled water individual decision-making is done. This means, when confronted with the choice of ordering bottled water at a restaurant or requesting a glass of tap water, what do individuals do?

This an interesting area of research for me because, if faced with the choice myself, I will always choose a glass of tap water. This phenomenon (having to force restaurant owners to provide tap water instead of allowing them to impose a purchase of bottled water) is growing in Mexico. I was confronted with this when I lived in Vancouver, where the norm (despite having EXCELLENT quality tap water) was to serve me with a bottle of water. This pissed me off to no end, not only because of my scholarly research, but because the imposition actually shifts control of beverage choice, from the consumer to the supplier (in this case, the restaurant). Recently, the health authorities of Mexico City decided to impose a new legislative requirement on restaurants: you can’t force consumers to buy bottled water, you must provide clean, safe, potable drinking water for them.

As someone who uses neoinstitutional theory in much of his research, I’m interested in how rules and norms are constructed, stabilized and institutionalized. Thus I find it fascinating to understand how this recently-imposed bylaw will be enforced and whether it will lead to any behavioural change. I’ve long suspected that behavioural changes in water consumption are multifactorial: there are many reasons why bottled water consumption has grown exponentially in the last few years. It can’t be only the fact that bottled water is readily available or that tap water in Mexico has been routinely shunned because of badly maintained water supply infrastructure. I’m keen to delve more into this issue in the next year or so.

You can share this blog post on the following social networks by clicking on their icon.

Posted in academia, research, water policy.

Tagged with , , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.