Tools for Evaluating and Monitoring the Effectiveness of Urban Landscape Water Conservation Interventions and Programs
Our research objective was to investigate ways to evaluate landscape water use to help cities more effectively direct water conservation programs to locations with capacity to conserve. Research was conducted in connection with a landscape irrigation evaluation delivered through a city-sponsored Water Check Program. Research efforts led to development of several assessment and monitoring tools including: Landscape Irrigation Ratio (LIR), Participant Outcome Evaluation Tool, and Program Evaluation Tool. We utilized these tools to identify locations with capacity to conserve water applied to landscapes, compare water use before and after the water check, and evaluate Water Check Program effectiveness. We found the LIR approach successfully distinguished residential locations efficiently or acceptably using water applied to landscapes from ones with use considered inefficient or excessive. In analyzing change in participants’ water use and eliminating explanations other than the water check, we found factors influencing landscape water use tend to be highly contextualized and the intervention itself needed to be analyzed. The majority of participants who adopted the water check recommendations successfully reduced their landscape water use, but results indicate water check programs can be designed for greater effectiveness by accommodating participants’ differing knowledge and skill levels. We argue that the tools we developed provide the water conservation field with a needed set of common assessment methods. We conclude that landscape water checks have the potential to provide people with the information and problem-solving skills necessary to maintain residential landscapes using appropriate amounts of water if they are well designed, delivered, and monitored.