A recent survey shows that people around the world worry more about the supply of clean drinking water than they do about climate change, air pollution, species extinction, loss of habitat and depletion of natural resources. Water is people’s top environmental concern.

An official with the U.S. EPA told me about this survey last October when I attended the WaterSmart show in Las Vegas. He said this was the first research he had seen that put water concerns ahead of global warming.

The nonprofit group Circle of Blue commissioned the international research last summer, and Molson Coors Brewing Co. helped pay for it. Among the survey’s other findings: Education is essential to help people understand the dimensions and the urgency of the global water crisis. In addition, most Americans believe individuals can make a difference in responding to water shortages.

At WaterSmart and at Greenbuild the following month in Phoenix, exhibitors emphasized water conservation. What struck me is that the products on display fall into two groups: First, those that utilize technology to use less water; second, those that attempt to modify people’s behavior so they use less water.

As plumbing contractors, you’re familiar with the first group. These products include dual-flush toilets, dual-flush retrofit kits, high-efficiency toilets, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, low-flow urinals and urinals that operate with no water at all.

From those just mentioned, you can see the range of products that qualify as water-saving, even within a specific product category. “Be as green as you want to be” is a message I heard repeatedly from manufacturers who offer spray rinse valves, toilets, urinals and other products that consume varying levels of water.

That’s an appealing message you can use with your residential and commercial customers too. They will have different degrees of commitment to green plumbing, and some will question the performance of products on the market. You can recommend and install products that match your customers’ diverse comfort levels.

For many customers, simply buying water-saving products represents a dramatic change in their behavior. Other products, however, seek to modify their behavior even further.

You don’t need a degree in psychology to sell these behavior modification devices, which use timing mechanisms, flashing lights and other technology to send signals to the water consumer. For example, small lights on one showerhead go from green to yellow to red to indicate when the shower reaches a preset time limit.

The water doesn’t shut off at that point; it just lets the person know his time is up. Through repetition of several showers, the bather’s awareness of the time increases while the amount of water in shorter showers decreases.

People who choose water-saving products and change how they use water are in line with the survey findings. Americans are optimistic in believing their individual actions can help solve the water crisis. You should give your customers the opportunity to take action with the products you sell along with your installation and service.

Remember that another finding in the survey states that education is essential to help people understand the importance of conserving water.  You can go a long way toward educating your customers by sharing your expertise in saving water.