University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #AEC651

Using County Typology Informed by Population Size to Understand Key Audience Characteristics for Tailored Landscape Water Conservation Programs1

Laura A. Sanagorski Warner and John M. Diaz2

Abstract

A major priority for UF/IFAS is the promotion of science-based landscape management practices to conserve water resources. This publication outlines specific opportunities that exist for tailoring landscape water conservation programs to Floridians who live in more and less metropolitan areas. People who live in more populated counties in Florida tend to have longer residency tenure, are more likely to live within a community governed by a homeowners’ association, and more likely to hire a landscape professional. The more metropolitan audience demonstrates increased engagement with specific water conservation practices as compared to other conservation strategies. Understanding these differences among audience subgroups can provide insights to guide impactful Extension programs.

Introduction

Florida’s growing number of residents and their home landscapes (consisting of irrigated and fertilized plants, turfgrass, and trees) can influence water resources either positively or negatively, depending on how landscapes are managed. Urbanization and population growth in Florida present both challenges and opportunities for landscape water conservation Extension programming. A major UF/IFAS Extension focus is enhancing and protecting water quality, quantity, and supply (UF/IFAS, 2013).

Successful Extension programs depend on behavior change (Monaghan & Monroe, 2013); yet, encouraging people to change is a complex process. Extension can use a strategy known as audience segmentation to encourage water conservation (Monaghan, Warner, Telg, & Irani, 2014). Audience segmentation is a concept Extension can use to divide a major group (such as Florida residents) into smaller groups with members who are similar to one another in ways that make sense for Extension programming (Rogers, 2003). Here, we apply this concept using population size (or how metropolitan) an Extension client’s county is.

It is important that Extension finds ways to extend its impact to serve everyone (Harder & Wells, 2017). Therefore, the information presented in this document was collected to identify ways to best position water conservation programs for Florida’s larger metropolitan areas as well as the state’s less populated counties.

Identifying Florida Residents’ Characteristics as a Function of Population Size

Over the course of three years (2014–2016), we asked approximately 3,500 Floridians about their landscape and water use practices. These individuals were required to have control over their landscape irrigation, meaning they had the opportunity to engage in more conservation practices. We asked this group where their water came from (i.e., city, irrigation well, reclaimed water) and whether they hired professionals for different landscape tasks (irrigation services, lawn maintenance, tree pruning, pest management, landscape design and installation). We asked them whether they engaged in any landscape water conservation practices from a list of 16 strategies promoted by UF/IFAS (e.g., I calibrate my sprinklers; I have converted turfgrass areas to landscaped beds; I have replaced high water plants with drought tolerant plants; I use a rain sensor to turn off irrigation when it is not needed). Lastly, we asked Floridians about their demographics, including their zip codes. We used the zip codes to determine which county population size segment each individual belonged to:

  • metro areas with a population of 1 million or more (e.g., Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County);

  • metro areas with a population of 250,000 to 1 million (e.g., Alachua County, Volusia County);

  • metro areas with a population of less than 250,000 (e.g., Bay County, Gulf County); and

  • non-metro areas with a population size of 20,000 or more (e.g., Hendry County, Monroe County; Economic Research Service, 2013).

We found some interesting similarities and differences.

Personal Characteristics

As population size increases, Floridians tend to be younger and to have lived in Florida longer. For example, in counties with metro areas of 1 million or more residents, the average respondent is 46 years old and has lived in Florida for about 24 years. Those living in less populated locations tend to be older and have lived in the state for a shorter period of time. In counties characterized by nonmetro areas with populations of 20,000 or more, the average respondent was 53 years old and had lived in Florida for less than 20 years. The more populated someone’s county is, the more likely they are to live within a homeowners’ association (HOA; about 54% in metro areas of 1 million or more and about 36% in metro areas with 250,000 or less).

Water Source

Floridians in all locations use city water over the other possible sources (about half or more in all segments). However, as population size of the studied areas decreased, the use of irrigation wells became more common and the use of reclaimed water became slightly less common. About 40% of our respondents indicated they used a well in the metro areas with fewer than 250,000 residents and the non-metro areas with more than 20,000 residents.

Hiring a Landscape Professional

Residents in the bigger metro areas indicated that they are more likely to hire a landscape professional for all of the services we asked about. The biggest practical differences were for lawn maintenance and tree pruning. As a county’s population size decreases, residents indicated that they are less likely to hire a landscape professional for anything; these are do-it-yourselfers.

Landscape Water Conservation Practices

There are small but important differences in landscape water conservation practices depending on residents’ county population size. Residents in larger metropolitan areas are more likely to say they conserve water by using recycled wastewater for irrigation. More residents in the larger metro areas use smart irrigation controls (such as soil moisture sensors) to save water than residents in the less populated counties. Residents in counties with smaller populations were more likely to have replaced high volume irrigation with low volume irrigation, to have converted turfgrass to landscaped beds, to have low-water plants, and to use a rain gauge to monitor rainfall.

How to Use This Information

Now that similarities and differences have been identified among Floridians living in larger metropolitan and less populated areas, these unique characteristics can be integrated into planned Extension programs. Extension professionals are encouraged to consider the many influences that may lead to these differences, which extend beyond population size alone to include infrastructure, service availability, and other factors. Since people living in more or less densely populated areas save water in different ways, Extension professionals should tailor programs based on the needs of their audience. Table 1 presents the classification of Florida counties by population size. We offer the following recommendations for applying these findings to Extension programs:

  • Encourage strategies that are least used by residents in a particular target audience when they are appropriate methods of conservation. In more populated areas, this includes converting turfgrass to landscaped beds, using a rain gauge to monitor rainfall, and retrofitting the landscape so portions are not irrigation. In less populated areas, this includes using recycled wastewater when infrastructure is available. Promoting under-used conservation strategies is a way to take advantage of the opportunity for more people to adopt a specific conservation strategy.

  • Consider emphasizing the compatibility of new landscape water conservation strategies with those that an audience is already using. Residents in more metropolitan areas might be attracted to programs that help them refine strategies they already use (such as smart irrigation controls) and then add in additional compatible strategies, such as low-volume irrigation or reductions in irrigated areas.

  • Noticing that metropolitan residents were less engaged with practices considered to be permanent landscape modifications (i.e., installing low-volume irrigation in place of high-volume irrigation or removing turfgrass or high water plants and installing drought-tolerant plants instead); Extension programs serving these audiences should recognize that social norms may be an important factor to these residents. In other words, they want their landscapes to look like their neighbors’ and may not want to deviate from a community aesthetic. There may also be HOA restrictions or perceptions of restrictions that prevent these types of landscape modifications. Extension should consider helping these residents to save water while maintaining a uniform look, and also consider promoting conservation strategies on a community scale in these cases.

  • Consider who is managing the client’s landscape. In more metropolitan areas, it is more likely to be someone other than the resident (and possibly several landscape professionals). In these cases, Extension should consider educating the resident on how to screen potential landscape service providers so they hire someone who will help them save water. Residents can also be trained to specify services and technologies that will lead to water savings from existing professionals and those they hire in the future.

  • In more populated areas, Extension programs also need to target landscape professionals because they are performing a number of residential landscape tasks for residents. This represents an opportunity to promote behavior change among a different audience that influences water use in more metropolitan areas. In metropolitan areas with fewer people and nonmetropolitan areas, Extension programming might focus mostly on the residents themselves because they are more likely to be do-it-yourselfers.

  • Extension programs should integrate residents’ source of water. Municipal water is more common in more metropolitan areas, while wells are more common in less populated counties. Those residents who use well water likely have unique concerns regarding maintenance of their wells and preserving their water supply, and these concerns can be used to target programs towards this audience.

  • Consider engaging multiple partners for Extension programming, especially in more metropolitan areas. Residents living in more populated counties may have several landscape service providers and live in HOAs, implying there are many decision-makers influencing a single residental landscape.

  • There may be a link between living in a more populated area and engaging in different, and possibly fewer, landscape water conservation practices. This implies that less contact with nature may translate to less conservation, or different approaches to conservation. Extension should think about ways to connect people who are not exposed to natural resources, such as local water bodies, with their environment as a means to motivate them to protect it. Consider field trips or educational displays to help Extension clients learn about Florida’s water bodies and important concepts such as runoff and watersheds.

Conclusions

Floridians save water in different ways depending on whether they live in a more or less populated area, and these conservation factors are influenced by a number of factors. Future research should examine these factors more closely and consider analyzing conservation behaviors at a more local level. Extension professionals should help Floridians conserve by integrating the unique characteristics of more and less densely populated areas into Extension programs. Evidence shows that by understanding these characteristics, tailored programs can be developed to increase the likehood of achieving behavior change. For more information about this specific study, please see Warner, Diaz, and Kumar Chaudhary (2018).

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (http://clce.ifas.ufl.edu) for supporting the research presented in this publication.

References

Economic Research Service. (2013). Rural-urban continuum codes. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rural-urban-continuum-codes/

Harder, A., & Wells, O. (2017). Tampa Bay Extension agents’ views of urban extension: Philosophy and program strategies. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 5(2), 55–69. Retrieved from https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/c8fe6e_74f3a32b703e4a4fb0e98d2b95861a4f.pdf

Monaghan, P., & Monroe, M. (2013). Improving behavioral outcomes in extension using the tools of community-based social marketing (CBSM). AEC486. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc149

Monaghan, P., Warner, L., Telg, R., & Irani, T. (2014). Improving extension program development using audience segmentation. AEC538. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc188

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences [UF/IFAS]. (2013). Shaping solutions for Florida’s future: The University of Florida extension roadmap 2013—2023. University of Florida. Retrieved from http://pdec.ifas.ufl.edu/roadmap/FloridaExtensionRoadmap_2013-2023.pdf

Warner, L. A, Diaz, J. M., & Kumar Chaudhary, A. (2018). Informing urban landscape water conservation extension programs using behavioral research. Journal of Agricultural Education, 59(2), 32–48. doi:10.5032/jae.2018.02032

Tables

Table 1. 

Florida county rural-urban continuum classification. Adapted from Economic Research Service (2013).

County

Population in 2010 census

Description

Alachua County

247,336

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Baker County

27,115

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Bay County

168,852

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Bradford County

28,520

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Brevard County

543,376

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Broward County

1,748,066

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Calhoun County

14,625

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Charlotte County

159,978

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Citrus County

141,236

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Clay County

190,865

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Collier County

321,520

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Columbia County

67,531

Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area

DeSoto County

34,862

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Dixie County

16,422

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Duval County

864,263

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Escambia County

297,619

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Flagler County

95,696

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Franklin County

11,549

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Gadsden County

46,389

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Gilchrist County

16,939

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Glades County

12,884

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Gulf County

15,863

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Hamilton County

14,799

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Hardee County

27,731

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Hendry County

39,140

Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area

Hernando County

172,778

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Highlands County

98,786

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Hillsborough County

1,229,226

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Holmes County

19,927

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Indian River County

138,028

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Jackson County

49,746

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Jefferson County

14,761

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Lafayette County

8,870

Nonmetro - Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, not adjacent to a metro area

Lake County

297,052

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Lee County

618,754

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Leon County

275,487

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Levy County

40,801

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Liberty County

8,365

Nonmetro - Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, adjacent to a metro area

Madison County

19,224

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Manatee County

322,833

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Marion County

331,298

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Martin County

146,318

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Miami-Dade County

2,496,435

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Monroe County

73,090

Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area

Nassau County

73,314

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Okaloosa County

180,822

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Okeechobee County

39,996

Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area

Orange County

1,145,956

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Osceola County

268,685

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Palm Beach County

1,320,134

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Pasco County

464,697

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Pinellas County

916,542

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Polk County

602,095

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Putnam County

74,364

Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area

St. Johns County

190,039

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

St. Lucie County

277,789

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Santa Rosa County

151,372

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Sarasota County

379,448

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Seminole County

422,718

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more

Sumter County

93,420

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Suwannee County

41,551

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Taylor County

22,570

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Union County

15,535

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Volusia County

494,593

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Wakulla County

30,776

Metro - Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population

Walton County

55,043

Metro - Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population

Washington County

24,896

Nonmetro - Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area

Footnotes

1.

This document is AEC651, one of a series of the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2018. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Laura A. Sanagorski Warner, assistant professor; and John M. Diaz, assistant professor, Department of Agricultural Education and Communication; 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.