In the coming decades, no natural resource may prove to be more critical to human health and well-being than water. There is abundant evidence that the condition of water resources in many parts of the United States is deteriorating. In some regions of the country, the availability of sufficient water to meet growing domestic uses, and the future sufficiency of water to support the use of landscape plants where we live, work, and play is in doubt. Conservation through water efficiency measures and water management practices may be the best way to help resolve water problems. Yet, consumer perceptions and attitudes and behavior toward water conservation may differ widely, particularly in the presence of drought. This study sought to add to the current horticulture and water conservation literature by exploring consumer attitudes and behavior during real and perceived drought situations, especially in terms of their landscape purchases and gardening/landscaping activities. Study findings could better inform educational programs and marketing strategies, helping to ensure the future demand of Green Industry products and services. With a national sample of 1543 subjects, an online survey tool was used to classify respondents into categories based on whether they accurately perceived if the region in which they lived was experiencing drought. We hypothesized that consumers were heterogeneous in their attitudes and behavior regarding plants and water conservation, depending on their real and perceived drought situations, and that their attitudes affected their behavior regarding plant purchases. Results confirmed this hypothesis. Attitudes and behaviors for those who correctly perceived they were in drought were different from those who correctly perceived they were not in drought, as well as those who incorrectly did not perceive they were in an actual drought.
Funding for this study was provided by USDA SCRI Clean WateR3—Reduce, Remediate, Recycle Grant Number 2014-51181-22372; USDA NIFA Hatch Projects MICL 02085, MICL 1011569, and TEX0-1-7051; Michigan State University AgBioResearch, and MSU Project GREEN and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
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