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Environment & Science

Drought shaming: How to get everyone else to stop wasting water




KPCC's Jacob Margolis mediates between 18-year-old Price Campbell, left, and his father, Marvin Campbell, right, about water use in their home.
KPCC's Jacob Margolis mediates between 18-year-old Price Campbell, left, and his father, Marvin Campbell, right, about water use in their home.
KPCC's Jacob Margolis mediates between 18-year-old Price Campbell, left, and his father, Marvin Campbell, right, about water use in their home.
The double shower head in the Campbell home.


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About a month ago we asked listeners, "Is water use causing tension at home?" A lot of you said yes!

Your spouses are nagging you, your neighbors are overwatering their lawns. I mean, some of the responses were so dramatic that you made it seem like no one cares that there's a huge water problem in California.

Plenty of you want to convince people to change their habits, so we thought we'd help out. We talked to marriage and family therapist Talia Wagner, and we tested out some techniques that we learned on the world’s toughest audience — an apathetic teenager. 

To hear the whole water intervention that we launched for one family, click on the audio embedded above.

If you'd like to launch your own, here's how we approached it.

1. Identify the Problem

Marvin Campbell reached out and told us about how his son, Price, won't stop taking 30 minute showers.

“I go son, if you’re in the shower for more than five minutes, it only takes about five minutes to take a shower. I don’t know. I’m not saying what you’re doing in there, but it ain’t showering... That didn’t work.”

He's tried everything from shaking the water bill at him, banging on the door, and shutting off the hot water when he gets frustrated enough. No matter what, Price says he won't stop.

"You can’t really describe a hot shower in the morning. It’s just the best thing ever. And I can’t stop. I can not stop. I’m sorry California!"

2. Master Communication

"I want to learn some of that verbal judo where you force people to do things with words," says Marvin.

If screaming, shouting and stomping your feet doesn't work, you should probably talk calmly to the person you're trying to convince. People don't respond to aggressive behavior, says Talia.

"I wish there were a magic dust formula that we could sprinkle on each other to accept and… you know." 

If they're a neighbor, try and get them to buy into what you're selling by saying that the whole neighborhood is doing it. If it's a teen, set some boundaries with consequences. Or, just do what we did: turn the whole thing into a game.

"I think that if you can reinforce their efforts and talk about how great it feels that they’re working with you, people tend to feel good with that. In the same way that they don’t feel good if you criticize them," Talia says.

Because in the end, you might get someone to think differently about a situation. Much like what happened with Price after our intervention. 

"I really am wasting water. I am… there’s a serious epiphany happening right now. I’ve got to stop." 

Check out the attached audio to hear the tricks that we pulled, which in the end, made Price change his tune. The bottom line? Find a compromise that makes everyone happy.

3. Accept Reality

While we changed Price's mind, if people don't want to change what they're doing, realize that you're probably not going to get through to them — at least not right away. Take a deep breath, it's OK. 

How'd we find out about what our listeners had to say about the drought? They let us know through our Public Insight Network! If you want to join and give us your thoughts on the drought, click on through to here.