Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Massachusetts
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Massachusetts Project

Understanding the factors that influence outdoor residential water conservation: a case study in suburban Boston

October 2012 - September 2015


Participating Agencies

  • University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture
Residential rain garden

In the face of recent droughts and climate change impacts, water conservation is critical for meeting water demands of humans and freshwater ecosystems. Since residential landscaping is a major component of domestic water use, efforts to promote outdoor residential water conservation are critical. Water harvesting using rain barrels, infiltrating stormwater using rain gardens, and landscaping with native plants have been promoted through outreach campaigns as a means to reduce water use and provide ecosystem benefits. There is a need to understand how these recent water conservation outreach efforts impact local residents’ attitudes towards and behaviors incorporating these low-impact development (LID) strategies, and subsequently lead to measureable improvements in water conservation and ecosystem health. In addition, it is important to understand the formal and informal role the green industry plays in promoting residential landscape water conservation. Our project aims to trace watershed conservation measures from policy incentives to impact so as to develop a clearer picture of the relationship between local policy and outreach efforts, and actual decisions to engage and install residential landscape water conservation and stormwater management strategies. The project goals are: 1) to identify local policy and outreach efforts across the watershed and to evaluate connections between those and the adoption of LID practices, 2) to explore the factors that influence local residents’ decisions to engage in low impact development strategies to conserve domestic water and manage stormwater, 3) to understand the connection between adoption of water conservation practices and actual water quantity savings at the household and watershed scales, and 4) to enhance local agencies’ outreach efforts to promote LID and water conservation tools and techniques that are readily adopted by local residents and provide the greatest benefit for the environment and human well-being.