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Is less always more? Conservation, efficiency and water education programs

Jingjing Wang () and Janie Chermak

Ecological Economics, 2021, vol. 184, issue C

Abstract: Water scarcity and stress are not new phenomena for many regions around the world. Problems are exacerbated by growing populations, changing weather patterns and reduced water supplies, associated with longer run climatic change. To help mitigate the problems, consumer conservation programs, including education programs directed at outdoor water use, have been created. We analyze the impact of one such program - the “WaterSmart” workshop offered by the largest water utility in New Mexico located in the southwestern United States. The utility's objective was for residential customers to water to their landscape needs. We find the program's impact varied by time, weather, and customer type. The program reduced average household water use, with impacts decaying quickly up to a two-month lag. Further, while water use declined under mild drought conditions, it increased during extreme drought. Finally, water use always increased for low-usage households. These findings suggest that the program increased residential outdoor water use efficiency, while the conservation impact depended on weather conditions and household characteristics. This suggests that water shortages in the short run could be ameliorated or exacerbated, depending on conditions, as the trade-offs between efficient maintenance of urban vegetation and water saving are considered.

Keywords: Conservation; Efficiency; Water demand; Non-pecuniary; Education; Communication (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q21 Q25 Q28 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:184:y:2021:i:c:s0921800921000525

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.106994

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