by Brad Buck, University of Florida/IFAS
Shorten showers. Limit lawn irrigation. For the most part, Americans get it: They are fairly water conscious, according to a new national survey conducted by a team of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
UF/IFAS researchers based their assessment on responses to a survey of 1,052 respondents. The poll shows 46 percent are “water considerate;” 44 percent of the participants are what researchers classified as “water savvy conservationists” and 9 percent are not concerned about water conservation.
“Water considerate” consumers take a few actions to conserve water but could stand some improvement, said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Water savvy conservationists” are most likely to engage in landscape irrigation conservation practices, and they’re more likely to use professionals for various landscape tasks. The savvy ones are also more likely to have social support or perceive expectations to conserve from friends and family, Warner said.
So-called “unconcerned water users” lack the strong perceived value for water resources, said Warner, who is also affiliated with the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.
Even though most people are conscious of their water use, their neighbors probably are unaware of these efforts to conserve water. So a little neighborly conservation would help everyone, Warner said.
“For example, you don’t know your neighbors take short showers and you don’t see micro-irrigation in their landscape,” Warner said. “You do tend to notice wasteful practices, such as running irrigation sprinklers when it is raining.”
The new, national survey follows a UF/IFAS study of Floridians’ water consciousness published last year. In last year’s survey, 45 percent of Floridians were “water considerate;” 36 percent, “water savvy” and 19 percent unconcerned.
With the Florida and national online surveys, participants answered numerous questions and responded to dozens of statements about water use and landscaping. After researchers recorded those answers, they found three groups of water users.
Although previous research has found that Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape are more water conscious than the general population, it is possible that Californians and Texans are even more aware and concerned about water availability. That could explain the higher percent of water-conscious people in the national sample, UF/IFAS researchers said.
Historically, homeowners irrigate their lawns to make them lush and green. Yet, many people can reduce the amount of water they use to irrigate without sacrificing a nice lawn. Thus, changing residential landscape water use is important, yet difficult, UF/IFAS researchers said.
Again, though, Warner stresses the need for neighbors to talk to each other about water conservation.
“If people talk about it more, they may find new ways to save water inside and outside of the home,” she said. “I encourage folks to contact their local Extension office, or visit the UF/IFAS EDIS website, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/, to find new ways to save water. Sometimes small changes in landscape irrigation practices, such as calibrating your sprinklers to apply the recommended amount, may seem like they would have minimal effect, but consumers can see reductions in their water use, especially when they consider the cumulative effect of small changes over time.”
Results of the latest UF/IFAS research are published in the Journal of Agricultural Education.
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