UF/IFAS study: Water conservation important to many; only some take action
How long do you shower? Would you be willing to set a timer for yourself while you bathe? That may be something to consider as you try to reduce your water consumption, say University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
In a study that used an online survey of 932 Floridians, UF/IFAS researchers sought to identify characteristics of so-called “high-water users,” based on residents’ perceived importance of plentiful water and their water conservation behaviors.
Researchers were most interested in the 24 percent of the respondents who saw water conservation as important yet take little action to do so – for example, people who take long showers and those who may use excessive water to irrigate their lawns. That’s because researchers want residents, homeowners associations, Extension agents and the media to target their water conservation measures to these water users.
Homeowners associations can play a key role in helping or impeding residents in water conservation efforts, said Lisa Lundy, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural education and communication.
“HOAs can play an educational role in informing residents about water conservation,” said Lundy, who co-authored a recent study presented by UF/IFAS researchers at the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists conference in San Antonio, Texas. “They can also educate residents about issues like how soapy water from washing cars ends up in storm drains, affecting our drinking water.
“In such situations, HOAs can ensure that residents choose certain landscaping companies that use water-conserving strategies,” she said. HOAs can require certain types of turfgrass, plants and more. They also might not allow xeriscaping — designing land to minimize water use — even if a homeowner wants to change his or her landscape.
People move to Florida and want their lawns to flourish. In fact, many homeowners associations urge their residents to maintain lush, green lawns, and that requires a lot of water. On the other hand, if homeowners feel pressure from their HOA’s guidelines for their lawn to look a certain way, they may not want to cut their water use, said Lundy, who co-authored a recent study of high water users.
Some people in the survey said they understand the need to conserve water, they just don’t feel personally responsible citing numerous “barriers.”
“It’s easy for citizens to look at big issues like water and assign blame to forces larger than themselves,” Lundy said.