Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

David T. Anderson


David T. Anderson


Joanna Endter-Wada


Keith M. Christensen


As water supplies in the American West become increasingly strained by growing populations and threats of drought and climate change, water managers and governments are working to maximize water-use efficiency. With well over half of municipal water being used on outdoor irrigation, improved landscape water efficiency has been a clear candidate for conservation messaging. Because social norms play a significant role in what conservation behaviors individuals adopt voluntarily, conservation messaging strategies often try to influence and shift norms in favor of improved behaviors. A clear understanding of the existing norms, demographics, and cultural values of an area is essential to tailoring relevant and effective conservation messages.

The purpose of this research was to identify landscape norms in Washington County, Utah and whether residents had perceived a shift in norms over time toward desert-adapted landscapes. We also researched whether social norms played a significant role in the types of landscapes residents preferred. To answer these questions, we surveyed three populations: visitors to a popular, local conservation garden, participants in conservation programs and workshops, and members of a homeowner association. Based on their responses, we found that residents did perceive a shift in landscape norms toward desert landscapes. The vast majority of respondents also indicated approval of homeowners using desert landscaping in their neighborhoods, regardless of their own landscaping decisions. However, little social pressure exists to motivate homeowners to adapt to a specific neighborhood norm. As such, conservation strategies in Washington County should emphasize the approval and growing use of appropriate water-conserving landscape norms.

To increase effectiveness, conservation messaging should address the needs of specific demographics. For example, because we found that homeowners with children tend to prefer larger amounts of lawn, conservation messaging needs to demonstrate how child-friendly alternatives to lawn-dominant landscapes can meet the needs of children. In addition to suggestions for improving voluntary behavior changes, we discuss how policies can help to accelerate changes in landscape norms.