Water is essential for all life, including plants, and ≈40% to 70% of U.S. water is used in urban areas (Spinti et al., 2004; St. Hilaire et al., 2008). Springer (2011) reported that the average U.S. household used ≈69 gallons of water per capita daily in 2006. Globally, nearly 40% of food resources come from irrigated land (Somerville and Briscoe, 2001). Water resources will become scarcer as the world population increases (Springer, 2011), which will have an impact on how and where we use water. If consumer attitudes and behaviors severely reduce or eliminate landscape water use, it will have a widespread and detrimental effect on the Green Industry. The current climate is ideal to discover the role of consumer attitudes and perceptions of water use and source with regard to landscape plants. These discoveries can be used to better inform educational and marketing efforts to help sustain the green industry during drought periods.
Household water usage in the United States is greatly affected by water shortages. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates domestic water usage every 5 years. In 2010 (last survey administered), the total freshwater withdrawals were estimated to be 355 billion gallons per day, which represented 86% of total withdrawals (Maupin et al., 2014). More than 42,000 million gallons of water per day is drawn for public water usage for 286 million people. Public water is any water drawn for domestic, commercial, and industrial needs. Of public water, domestic water usage represents 57% and is classified as all water used for nonagricultural or industrial purposes excluding all water not used in households. Sixty-three percentage of the water drawn for public supply was from surface sources, such as rivers and lakes, whereas 37% was from groundwater.
The Columbia Water Project (Alfredo, 2016) brings to light much of the groundwater deficit the United States is experiencing. In the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and parts of Texas, Michigan, and Wisconsin, there is a Normalized Deficit Cumulated (NDC) > 5. NDC is the maximum cumulative water deficit between supply and demand as a ratio to its average annual precipitation (Alfredo, 2016). The NDC is important because it shows the level of replenishment of groundwater resources vs. annual withdrawal. Groundwater removal is increasing in states that have high multiyear drought such as Arizona, California, and Texas. In those areas, groundwater levels are falling.
Recent work indicates that attitudes and behavior toward potable water supplies have changed somewhat because of greater social awareness and increasingly widespread exposure to drought conditions (Beal et al., 2013). Education about and adoption of sustainable water use practices will ensure an adequate supply of quality landscape water while conserving water sources for human and ecosystem services (Beal et al., 2013). It is important to analyze consumer perceptions of water scarcity vs. actual water scarcity because past literature has shown that there is a deficit in homeowner knowledge concerning their actual water usage. Perceptions may, and often do, differ from reality and should be analyzed separately. By stepping into the dialogue with more evidence of behavioral differences among those who perceive to be in drought, and those who do not, we can contribute valuable insight to educators and marketers to reach consumers before, and during, drought. Reaching individuals in a timely manner is particularly important for plant producers and retailers who desire to merchandise more drought-tolerant plants and water-saving practices to their clientele.
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