UF survey shows Floridians want to conserve water, but not if it costs too much

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important — behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.

Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.

“From our 900 miles of dazzling beaches to the crystal-clear cold waters of 700 named springs, water is all around us, and Floridians understand its importance,” said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “But we must also help to educate them about protecting this natural resource.”

Survey data, collected in November, were weighted to balance geographic location, age, gender and race/ethnicity. Other key findings in the 34-page report, released today, include:

  • 72 percent of respondents said they would be willing to have their water bill increase by 10 percent if it ensured a future water supply in Florida, but only 19 percent were willing to do so if it required a 50 percent increase in their water bill.
  • Only 15 percent owned rain barrels and fewer than one-quarter used recycled wastewater to irrigate their lawns.
  • 85 percent said they were likely or very likely to pay attention to a news story about water, but only 52 percent said they had seen news coverage about water issues in Florida in the month preceding the survey.

The survey also revealed that respondents overall were unfamiliar with water policies. Only 30 percent considered themselves moderately or extremely familiar with both the Clean Water Act, a 1972 law that establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into U.S. waters, and the Everglades Restoration Act, a 2000 plan to capture fresh water and redirect it to the Everglades to help revive a dying ecosystem.

“I think this research can really help the public know more about water issues,” said Alexa Lamm, the UF assistant professor who led the survey. “It also lets IFAS faculty know the topics we can focus on if we want a more informed public.”

The survey is among several water-focused activities scheduled in February and March. UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education will host a webinar on landscape water use featuring Lamm and UF agricultural and biological engineering professor Michael Dukes at 2 p.m. Feb. 25. On March 19, Lamm and UF associate professor Kati Migliaccio will host a 2 p.m. webinar on public opinion of water and the implication for agriculture.

The water survey and a link to register for the webinars can be found at www.piecenter.com/water.


Cutline: Keeping lawns fresh is just one way Floridians use water. Sunshine State residents are still concerned about water, and they will pay for changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo.

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Sources: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, jackpayne@ufl.edu;

Alexa Lamm, 352-392-6545, alamm@ufl.edu



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Posted: February 18, 2015

Category: Agriculture, Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Research
Tags: Alexa Lamm, Conservation, Jack Payne, PIE Center, Water

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