Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Households’ Adoption of Drought Tolerant Plants: An Adaptation to Climate Change?

Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Households’ Adoption of Drought Tolerant Plants: An Adaptation to Climate Change?

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


In many regions, climate change will not only manifest itself as gradual changes in average conditions but also as increased frequency and intensity of extreme events (Angel and Huff, 1997; Arnell, 1999; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014; Sinha and Cherkauer, 2010). Typically, the Midwest has received sufficient rainfall for both crops and urban landscapes, but it is increasingly threatened by droughts, as are most other regions of the United States. Studies at various scales have reported that hotter summers with longer dry periods as well as milder, wetter winters will become more common in the Midwest (Arnell, 1999; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014; Murray, Foster, and Prentice, 2012; Sinha and Cherkauer, 2010). For example, the Midwest experienced a severe drought in 2012; Missouri received 31 inches of rainfall compared to its average 43 inches. The potential impacts of these changes on water resources are likely to increase in magnitude, diversity, and severity in future decades (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014).

Household-level adaptation to climatic threats can contribute to increasing the resilience and flexibility of interacting physical and social systems (Qin et al., 2015; Wamsler and Brink, 2014). One strategy that households can adopt to respond to limited or costly water resources is appropriately managing residential landscapes (Martin, Peterson, and Stabler, 2003), which account for 50-90% of household water consumption. The majority of this water is used to irrigate lawns (Hurd, Hilaire, and White, 2006; Sovocool, Morgan, and Bennett, 2006).1 Adopting drought tolerant plants (DTPs) is one way for households to manage residential landscapes to deal with changing water availability induced by climate change. Residential landscapes with more DTPs can reduce the costs of irrigation and maintenance and contribute to sustainable use of water resources. Homeowners are already adopting DTPs to cope with water scarcity, especially in some droughtstricken and urban areas of Florida (Shober, Denny, and Broschat, 2010) as well as New Mexico (Hurd, 2006), Nevada (Curtis and Cowee, 2010) and other Western states.

Landscape choices have been examined in the literature (e.g., Hurd, 2006), but these have focused on the effects of water cost, number of children, education, responsibility for conserving water, and location. To the best of our knowledge, there have been few systematic studies of the determinants of residential DTP adoption or the role of perceptions of climate change in the household decision-making process. These perceptions may be particularly important in areas that have not typically been drought-prone. To help reduce residential water consumption and improve residents' capacity to deal with future climate risks, we studied households' adoption of DTPs in an urbanizing watershed in the Midwest. A deeper understanding of the behavioral factors affecting DTP adoption can provide useful implications for policy development and educational efforts.

Adaptation and Household Water Conservation Practices

As shown in figure 1, a household's decision to adopt DTPs is made in the risk context of climate change. Climate change, specifically more frequent droughts, will increase the costs of irrigating and maintaining residential landscapes (Balling and Gober, 2007; Cook, Hall, and Larson, 2012). Households' responses are influenced by their susceptibility to risks, perceived exposure to risks, and opportunities to make changes (Larson et al., 2013; Qin et al., 2015; Wamsler and Brink, 2014). Households are also affected by the availability of information on adaptation options, undervaluation of potential losses, and individual financial feasibility (Adger, Arnell, and Tompkins, 2005; Adger et al., 2009; Kusangaya et al., 2014; Qin et al., 2015; West et al., 2009). Specific adaptation choices will substantially affect the benefits or costs associated with climate impacts (Larson et al. …

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