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Publication #AEC537

Encouraging Landscape Water-Conservation Behaviors #1: Tailoring Programs To Florida Residents Who Use Irrigation in the Home Landscape1

Laura A. Warner, Emmett Martin, Alexa Lamm, Joy Rumble, and Randall Cantrell2

Introduction/Overview

Water conservation is critical in the state of Florida, where it is becoming increasingly necessary to conserve and protect “domestic water supply while also meeting the water requirements of agriculture, horticulture, tourism, and industry, as well as the state’s 19 million inhabitants and its natural systems, all without placing undue pressure on a finite resource” (UF/IFAS, 2011, p. 14). As identified in the 2013-2023 University of Florida Extension Roadmap, “Water Quantity and Supply” is a key focus area within the “Enhancing and protecting water quality, quantity, and supply” major initiative (UF/IFAS, 2011). Focusing on this area, Florida Extension professionals “provide educational programs that result in behavior change, including improved management and use of the latest technology to increase water conservation and decrease pressure on our resources” (UF/IFAS, 2011, p. 14–15) to ensure plentiful water for all.

Florida Extension programs can encourage water conservation in the residential landscape, a substantial source of water consumption, by reaching a target audience, which is defined as group of people who have an opportunity to act on a defined problem and who have specific identified needs (Boone. Safrit, & Jones, 2002; Donaldson, n.d.). During the planning phase of Extension programming, audience analysis is used to understand target audiences and analyze their needs (Boone, Safrit, & Jones, 2002). This important step defines a target audience’s characteristics, skills, strengths, and preferences related to the problem or issue (Seevers, Graham, Gamon, & Conklin, 1997). The development of Extension strategies based on these characteristics is more likely to engage participants and result in behavior change.

The Encouraging Landscape Water Conservation Behaviors series (see Appendix A for more details) was developed to support Extension professionals in promoting the adoption of water-saving practices and technologies to a target audience of Florida residents who irrigate their home landscapes. This EDIS publication is the first in this series, and its goal is to provide Florida Extension professionals with information about this target audience that will guide and improve future Extension programing.

Audience Analysis of Floridians Who Use Irrigation in Their Home Landscapes

There is an abundance of information readily available about some target audiences but relatively little information about Florida residents who use irrigation in their home landscapes. A team of UF/IFAS faculty and staff conducted an audience analysis to better define this group. An electronic survey was used to collect information from 1,063 Florida residents who irrigate their home landscapes. The following outlines the findings, which Extension professionals can use to better understand this target audience and deliver programs based on known characteristics. The 1,063 respondents did not represent a random sample of lawn irrigation users in Florida, and the results are limited to the respondent group.

Importance of Florida Issues

Florida residents who use irrigation were asked to rate the importance of public and environmental issues (Figure 1): the economy, health care, public education, housing and foreclosure, water, immigration, taxes, environmental conservation, food production, and climate change. More than half of Floridians who irrigate their home landscape believed the economy (n = 646, 60.8%), water (n = 634, 59.6%), and health care (n = 611, 57.5%) were extremely important issues in the state of Florida. Public education (n = 510, 48.0%), taxes (n = 491, 46.2%), environmental conservation (n = 457, 43.0%), and immigration (n = 445, 41.9%) were rated as the next most important issues.

Irrigation Water Source

More than half of all respondents (n = 542, 51.0%) reported their irrigation water source was connected to city or municipality water. Nearly one third (n = 295, 27.8%) had an irrigation well, while 15.7% (n = 167) used reclaimed water.

Homeowners’ Association Status

The HOA status for all respondents (N = 1063) was almost equally split. Approximately half of all respondents (n = 524, 49.3%) belonged to a homeowners’ association (HOA), while approximately half of the sample (n = 539, 50.7%) did not. Of those who did belong to an HOA, 76.9% (n = 403) reported their HOA had policies in place that affected how the homeowners managed their landscaping.

Current Water-Conservation Behaviors

Table 1 displays residents’ responses to questions about current water-conservation behaviors. Most follow their local water restrictions (n = 955, 90.3%) and adjust their irrigation systems seasonally (n = 847, 80.1%), though very few use smart irrigation controls to ensure irrigation will not turn on when it is not needed (n = 245, 23.2%), use drip irrigation (n = 231, 21.8%), or use rain barrels to collect water (n = 213, 20.1%).

Figure 2 displays how frequently Florida residents who irrigate their home landscape avoided or engaged in negative water use practices. Most respondents reported that they never flush cooking oil down the toilet (n = 971, 91.3%), allow motor oil to run down the storm drain (86.9%, n = 924), let sprinklers operate during rain (n = 699, 65.8%), allow soapy water to enter a storm drain (n = 591, 55.6%), or hose down their driveway (n = 563, 53.0%).

Likelihood of Engaging in Water Conservation Practices in the Future

A substantial number of Floridians who irrigate reported that they are very likely to follow water restrictions (n = 861, 81.0%), seasonally adjust irrigation times (n = 638, 60.0%), and calibrate their sprinklers (n = 425, 40.0%) in the future (Figure 3).

Familiarity with Water-Related Programs

Florida residents who irrigate have varying levels of familiarity with water legislation such as the Clean Water Act, Water Quality Assurance Act, and the Everglades Restoration Plan. Most Floridians who irrigate their home landscape were not at all familiar or slightly familiar with these water-related programs (Figure 4).

Level of Importance – Plentiful and Clean Water

Respondents rated how important water cleanliness was for various purposes (Figure 5). Clean water for drinking was rated as extremely important by the largest number of respondents (n = 935, 88.0%); followed by clean beaches (n = 720, 67.7%); clean groundwater (n = 715, 67.3%); and clean lakes, springs, and rivers (n = 702, 66.0%).

Respondents rated how important the availability of water was for various purposes (Figure 6). More than half of Floridians who irrigate their landscapes believed plentiful water was extremely important for aquifers, springs, rivers, and lakes (n = 663, 62.4%); cities (n = 585, 55.0%); and agriculture (n = 550, 51.7%).

Level of Confidence in Water Safety and Availability

All respondents reported their confidence in future water availability and tap-water safety. Nearly half (n = 491, 46.1%) of all respondents were fairly confident there would be an adequate amount of water in 10 years. However, only 9.0% (n = 96) reported they were extremely confident in the safety of tap water in their homes.

Interactions with Extension and Extension Programs

Floridians who irrigate were asked about their participation in activities such as Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM, the Master Gardener Program, and Cooperative Extension Workshops (Table 2). Very few had ever participated in such programming. Respondents were also asked how often they engaged with Extension. The majority of Floridians who irrigate reported never engaging with Extension (n = 779, 73.3%), while 18.9% (n = 201) interacted with Extension less than once per month (Figure 11). Very few interacted with Extension one to three times per month (n = 52, 4.9%), once a week (n = 18, 1.7%), or more that once a week (n = 13, 1.3%).

Political Beliefs and Affiliation

Respondents reported their political beliefs. Individuals who self-identified as moderate in their political beliefs comprised approximately 43% (n = 460) of the sample. Approximately 34% of Floridians (n = 358) who use irrigation in the home landscape reported they were affiliated with the Republican Party. Democrats (n = 309, 29%) and Independents (n = 287, 27%) accounted for the next largest political groups.

Demographics

There were slightly more females (n = 610, 57%) among Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape. The majority self-reported their race as Non-Hispanic White (n = 948, 89%). Approximately 33% (n = 354) had a four-year college degree. Table 3 displays demographic information of respondents who irrigate their home landscapes.

Applying This Information to Extension Programming

The information presented in this publication defines a key audience for Florida Extension: Floridians who use irrigation in their home landscapes. This audience is defined by some key characteristics that have important implications for landscape water conservation programming:

  • Extension programs should be developed to be compatible with localized HOA policies. Half of this audience belongs to HOAs, and of those, three quarters is required to adhere to specific landscape policies. In addition, the social norms set within HOAs are extremely influential and should be considered when developing Extension programs (Warner & Monaghan, 2014). Extension professionals should familiarize themselves with local HOA policies and norms (e.g., covenants and restrictions) and tailor intervention programming to be compatible.

  • The majority considers water to be an extremely/highly important issue, second only to the economy. With that, landscape water conservation Extension programs need to focus less on raising awareness of the importance of water issues and more on practical ways this audience may contribute to solutions. Communicating the financial savings associated with water conservation practices may appeal to concerns about the economy as much, if not more, than appeals for water conservation itself.

  • Much of this audience is already taking some action to conserve water, and the majority is already following watering restrictions. Extension professionals may find opportunities for developing programs that focus on conservation practices where there is a great opportunity for improvement (i.e. where the majority of homeowners has not already adopted the practice) such as: using recycled waste water to irrigate, installing smart irrigation controls (such as soil moisture sensors (SMS) or evapotranspiration devices (ET), using drip (micro) irrigation, and using rain barrels to collect water.

  • Extension programs should build on this audience’s existing interest by incorporating planned conservation practices. Extension professionals should incorporate this audience’s planned future activities into programming to capitalize on existing interest. A substantial number of those in this audience is very likely to follow water restrictions, seasonally adjust irrigation times, use different irrigation zones based on plant needs, and calibrate their sprinklers. Extension programs should provide continued support and information for adopting these positive practices.

  • Extension programs should consider the existing level of knowledge for water-related programs and meet the audience at the appropriate place. Most of this audience’s members are unfamiliar with some of the major water-related programs in Florida. The majority were less than moderately familiar with water-related programs such as; the Clean Water Act, Florida Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Everglades Restoration Plan.

  • Landscape water conservation programs should build on the target audience’s values. This audience strongly values clean drinking water; plentiful water for springs, aquifers, lakes, and rivers; and plentiful water for cities and agriculture. Programming that makes connections between landscape water use and the drinking water sources may be more salient to this group. Connections between individual water use practices and local water bodies, local agriculture, and local cities may motivate audience members to engage in positive practices.

  • Extension professionals should consider new and innovative ways to connect with members of this target audience. A majority of this audience lives in urban areas and very few have attended a water-related Extension program or engaged in any capacity with Extension. See Information-Seeking Preferences of Florida Residents Who Use Irrigation in the Home Landscape (http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc204) in this series for more detail.

  • Landscape water conservation programs should use messages that this audience can identify with and that are based on the audience’s values, practices, and knowledge. See Developing Extension and Outreach Messages (http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc201) and Florida Homeowners’ Reactions to Messages that Encourage Landscape Water Conservation Practice Adoption (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc202) in this series for more detail.

Conclusion

Extension professionals may consider this information as a starting point for planned Extension programs. Variability throughout the state will occur based upon local issues and situations. Florida residents who irrigate their home landscapes are an important target audience because they have an opportunity to save a great deal of water with good water conservation practices. The results of this audience analysis may be used to guide Extension programming that reflects the needs of this audience and may ultimately lead to meaningful behavior change in the form of the adoption of water-saving practices and technologies.

Information spreads more quickly, and new behaviors are adopted more readily in groups among which people are similar (Rogers, 2003). This publication discussed key characteristics and commonalities among the members of this audience, which can be used to develop meaningful landscape water conservation Extension programs. Extension audiences can also be subdivided into meaningful subgroups (Monaghan, Warner, Telg, & Irani, 2014) based on differences (see EDIS publication Improving Extension Program Development Using Audience Segmentation (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc188) and Defining Segments of the Florida Homeowner Audience and Implications for Extension Programming (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc200).

References

Boone, E. J., Safrit, R. D., & Jones, L. (2002). Developing programs in adult education: A conceptual programming model (2nd ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Donaldson, J. L. (n.d.). The Tennessee Extension Program Planning And Evaluation Model. Retrieved from https://extension.tennessee.edu/eesd/Documents//PlanningEvaluation/TennesseeLogicModelExplanations.pdf

Monaghan, P., Warner, L., Telg, R., & Irani, T. (2014). Using Social Norms To Increase Behavior Change In Sustainable Landscaping. WC158. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Seevers, B., Graham, D., Gamon, J., & Conklin, N. (1997). Education through cooperative extension. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). (2011). Shaping solutions for Florida’s future: The University of Florida extension roadmap 2013–2023. University of Florida. Retrieved from http://extadmin.ifas.ufl.edu/images/lrp2.pdf

Warner, L., & Monaghan, P. (2014). Using social norms to increase behavior change in sustainable landscaping. AEC494. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc158

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the University of Florida’s Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE ~ http://clce.ifas.ufl.edu) for supporting this publication. We thank Andrew Thoron for his thoughtful comments on a previous version of this document.

Appendix A: Encouraging Landscape Water Conservation Behaviors Series Overview

The Encouraging Landscape Water Conservation Behaviors series was developed to address promoting adopting water-saving practices and technologies to a specific target audience, Florida residents who use irrigation in their home landscapes. These EDIS publications provide information to help Florida Extension professionals to understand this target audience and guide more effective programming.

#1: Tailoring Programs to Florida Residents Who Use Irrigation in the Home Landscape (WC199): This publication describes commonalities among this target audience and describes Florida residents who use irrigation in the home landscape. By understanding characteristics of this audience, Extension professionals can develop more effective and targeted programming for this audience.

#2: Applying Audience Segmentation to Water Conservation Activities in the Landscape—Defining Segments of the Florida Homeowner Audience and Implications for Extension Programming (WC200): This publication describes how segmentation can be applied to increase the effectiveness of Extension programming and defines specific segments of this target audience.

#3: Developing Extension and Outreach Messages (WC201): This publication defines message framing, gain and loss framed messages, and value frames. Extension educators are encouraged to incorporate framed messages into their programming.

#4: Florida Homeowners’ Reactions to Messages that Encourage Landscape Water Conservation Practice Adoption (WC202): This publication examines attitudes and perceived behavioral control over good irrigation practices among Florida residents who use irrigation in the home landscape. The impact of different messages that Extension educators may use to encourage water conservation is presented.

#5: Segmenting the Audience Based on HOA Status (WC203): This publication segments Florida residents who irrigate by HOA status. Commonalities and differences among those who belong to a HOA and those who do not belong to a HOA are explored. Extension educators can use this information to understand how HOA status impacts water conservation practices.

#6: Information-Seeking Preferences of Florida Residents Who Use Irrigation in the Home Landscape (WC204): This publication examines information-seeking preferences of Florida residents who use irrigation in the home landscape. Extension educators can use this publication to understand how residents seek information and the type of water conservation information that residents would like to learn about.

#7: Personal and Social Norms of Florida Residents Who Use Irrigation in the Home Landscape (WC205): This publication examines personal and social norms of Florida residents who use irrigation in the home landscape and describes how these characteristics can impact water conservation practices. Extension educators are encouraged to tailor programs that will encourage good irrigation practices and water conservation activities based on personal and social beliefs.

Appendix B

Figure 1. 

Level of importance of Florida issues reported by Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape (N = 1063)


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Figure 2. 

Negative water-conservation behaviors of Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape (N = 1063)


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Figure 3. 

Likeliness of engaging in water-conservation behaviors of Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape (N = 1063)


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Figure 4. 

Awareness of water-related programs among Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape (N = 1063)


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Figure 5. 

Level of importance of water cleanliness to Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape (N = 1063)


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Figure 6. 

Level of importance for plentiful water of Floridians who use irrigation in the home landscape (N = 1063)


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Tables

Table 1. 

Water-Conservation Behaviors of Floridians Who Use Irrigation in the Home Landscape (N = 1063)

 

%

n

I follow watering restrictions imposed by local government and/or water management districts

90.3

955

I seasonally adjust irrigation times

80.1

847

I use different zones/zone run times based on plants’ irrigation needs

61.0

645

I calibrate my sprinklers

59.8

633

I have low-water consuming plant materials in my yard

57.7

610

I use high efficiency sprinklers

53.7

568

I have replaced high water plants with drought tolerant plants

50.5

534

I use a rain sensor to turn off irrigation when it is not needed

46.4

491

I have turned off zone(s) or capped irrigation heads for established plants

44.8

474

I have replaced high volume irrigated areas with low volume irrigation

40.0

423

I use a rain gauge to monitor rainfall for reducing/skipping irrigation

35.0

370

I have converted turf grass areas to landscape beds

31.7

335

I have retrofitted a portion of my landscape so that it is not irrigated

30.3

321

I use recycled waste water to irrigate my lawn/landscape

29.9

316

I have installed smart irrigation controls (such as soil moisture sensors (SMS) or evapotranspiration device (ET) so irrigation won’t turn on when not needed

23.2

245

I use drip (micro) irrigation

21.8

231

I use rain barrels to collect water for use in my garden/lawn

20.1

213

Table 2. 

Participation in Landscape Educational Programming Activities Among Floridians Who Use Irrigation in the Landscape (N = 1063)

 

%

n

Florida-Friendly Landscaping™

10.8%

115

Master Gardener Program

8.7%

93

Cooperative Extension Workshops

5.8%

62

Sustainable Floridians

5.5%

58

Online Resource Guide for Shellfish Aquaculture

4.0%

43

Master Naturalist Program

3.1%

33

Table 3. 

Demographics of Floridians who use Irrigation in the Home Landscape (N = 1063)

Characteristic

n

%

Sex

   

Female

610

57.4

Male

453

42.6

Race

   

African American

61

5.7

Asian

36

3.4

Caucasian/White (Non–Hispanic)

948

89.2

Native American

19

1.8

Hispanic Ethnicity

101

10.6

Age

   

18–24

43

4.0

25–34

191

18.0

35–44

167

15.7

45–54

169

15.9

65–74

186

17.5

75 and older

65

6.1

Education

   

Less than High School

3

.3

High School/GED

118

11.1

Some College

248

23.3

2-year College Degree

143

13.5

4-year College Degree

354

33.3

Master’s Degree

156

14.7

Doctoral Degree

14

1.3

Professional Degree

27

2.5

Live Within City Limits

   

Within City or Town Limits

729

68.6

Outside of City or Town Limits

334

31.4

Footnotes

1.

This document is AEC537, one of a series of the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2015. Reviewed May 2018. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Laura A. Warner, assistant professor; Emmett Martin, former research assistant; Alexa Lamm, associate professor; Joy Rumble, assistant professor, Department of Agriculture Education and Communication; and Randall Cantrell, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.