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Fresh foods irrigated with recycled water: A framed field experiment on consumer responses

Olesya M. Savchenko, Maik Kecinski, Tongzhe Li (), Kent D. Messer and Huidong Xu

Food Policy, 2018, vol. 80, issue C, 103-112

Abstract: Recycled water is one potential solution to meeting the growing demand for irrigation water in the U.S. and worldwide. However, widespread adoption of recycled water by agriculture will depend on consumers’ acceptance of food crops grown with this water. In a revealed-preference dichotomous-choice framed field experiment, this study elicits consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for fresh produce irrigated with recycled water. It also evaluates consumers’ behavioral responses to information about benefits and potential risks of recycled irrigation water. The results suggest that consumers are less willing to pay for produce irrigated with recycled water than for produce irrigated with water of an unspecified type. Information about potential risks associated with recycled water reduces consumers’ WTP by nearly 50% while information about its environmental benefits does not have a substantial impact. However, a behavioral intervention that presents individuals with a balanced information treatment leads to a 30% increase in mean WTP for produce irrigated with recycled water relative to the experimental control. However, this effect is only found with vegetables and not with fruit, perhaps because fruit is usually consumed raw. Most of the demographic characteristics analyzed in the experiment did not influence consumers’ likelihood of purchasing produce irrigated with recycled water; the exception was presence of a child in the household—those consumers were less likely to purchase produce, particularly fruits, irrigated with recycled water. Finally, consumers experience welfare gains from a labeling policy that provides information about the use of recycled irrigation water.

Keywords: Water reuse; Field experiment; Consumer willingness to pay; Food labeling (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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