Uncertain future availability of water is one of the most critical current issues, and outdoor water use contributes substantially to the strain on water resources. Much of the nation’s outdoor water use is through urban landscape irrigation, and one solution for conservation of this limited resource is to change home landscape irrigation practices. Thus, households that use landscape irrigation are an important audience for Florida extension programs. Complex, statewide water conservation programs are difficult to evaluate because of program variability and limited resources, yet evaluation is an important task that reveals the success, or failure, of a program. This study compared factors between people who have or have not engaged in Florida extension programs. The targeting outcomes of programs model and theory of planned behavior were used as a basis for measuring different levels of possible outcomes. There were no differences in attitudes toward good irrigation practices and perceived ability to adopt them between extension participants and nonparticipants. There were differences between the two groups in perceived normative attitudes, intent to adopt good irrigation practices, and actual engagement in landscape water conservation practices. Findings demonstrate a relationship exists between these characteristics and engagement with extension. The greatest differences were stronger social norms and more engagement in complex conservation behaviors among people who had attended extension programs. It is not known how much externalities play a role in leading certain people to seek out extension education. Extension professionals should use the findings of this study to target nonparticipants and deliver more impactful programs.
There are substantial opportunities for residents to conserve and protect water through irrigation and fertilizer best practices without sacrificing landscape quality. Promoting the adoption of practices and technologies to address water quality and quantity issues is one of the most important contributions extension can make to solving complex water problems. Extension needs to use innovative approaches to encourage adoption of landscape water conservation practices and technologies, and one underused behavior change strategy is social marketing. Social marketing can help extension encourage behavior change by positioning desired behaviors in terms of value to clientele. This study examined the relationship between the benefits people believe their home landscape provides and their engagement in good irrigation and fertilization practices. Aesthetics is the most valued landscape benefit but it is not strongly influential on good irrigation or fertilization practices. Individuals who perceive their landscape offers habitat benefits are most likely to engage in good irrigation practices, whereas individuals who believe their landscape provides environmental benefits are most likely to engage in good fertilization practices. People who believe their landscape offers monetary benefits are least likely to engage in good irrigation and good fertilizer practices. Extension professionals should develop programs that relate fertilization best practices to environmental benefits and irrigation best management practices to habitat benefits while emphasizing that landscape management best practices are compatible with landscape aesthetics.