Artesia Consulting

Understanding changes in household water consumption associated with COVID-19.

The challenge

Somebody washing their hands in a kitchen sink

Since the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown, water companies have observed significant changes in how much, where, and when people use water. These sudden changes have affected water companies in various ways including challenges to maintain the water supply at peak hours or loss of revenue.

Artesia is a dynamic consultancy company working with data science to develop innovative solutions for water sector challenges. The company is currently supporting a number of water utilities across England and Wales to understand changes in patters of water demand associated with Covid-19. Alongside analysing water data monitoring system records, Artesia has identified the need to gain a better understanding of the qualitive aspects of new patterns of water demand.

This project aims to investigate how the pandemic and lockdown has changed the way people use water at home (how are water uses changing, what are the drivers underpinning these changes, what are the potential short- and long-term implications of these changes for water demand).

The solution

The project follows an interdisciplinary approach, building on quantitative data previously collected by Artesia and includes:

  • A rapid evidence assessment of news articles, grey literature, and peer reviewed journal articles to set the context of the problem
  • Six online focus group discussions to explore the lived experiences of changing domestic water use in the months following the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown in England and Wales.

The benefits

“This experience has helped me to put in practice the knowledge and expertise developed during my PhD program to solve water sector challenges and to gain confidence about the value and impact possibilities of my research for different non-academic partners.”

Dr Cecilia Alda-Vidal / School of Environment Education and Development, The University of Manchester.

This study has provided a detailed explanation for the increase in water demand during lockdown. It has allowed water and sewage companies in England and Wales to meet the requirements of the UK Environmental Agency and Ofwat, while providing timely evidence to amend industry standards in light of these sudden changes.

A set of recommendations on how to foster water sustainable futures amid these changes will be presented to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, supporting a key policy aim of reducing personal water use and increasing water efficiency.

The findings of this project will now go on to inform Artesia’s wider consultancy work and position them as a leader in this field.

In the media

Coronavirus lockdown caused dramatic changes in water consumption, research finds
UoM News, 11 November 2020

How the UK’s first lockdown changed water habits – and risked shortages
The Conversation, 22 March 2021


This project was completed in 2019-20 as part of the Collaboration Labs programme, a PhD research consultancy programme created by REALab, with funding from the ESRC, the NWCDTP and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester.