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How Smart Are `Water Smart Landscapes'?

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  • Christa Brelsford
  • Joshua K. Abbott

Abstract

Understanding the effectiveness of alternative approaches to water conservation is crucially important for ensuring the security and reliability of water services for urban residents. We analyze data from one of the longest-running "cash for grass" policies - the Southern Nevada Water Authority's Water Smart Landscapes program, where homeowners are paid to replace grass with xeric landscaping. We use a twelve year long panel dataset of monthly water consumption records for 300,000 households in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utilizing a panel difference-in-differences approach, we estimate the average water savings per square meter of turf removed. We find that participation in this program reduced the average treated household's consumption by 18 percent. We find no evidence that water savings degrade as the landscape ages, or that water savings per unit area are influenced by the value of the rebate. Depending on the assumed time horizon of benefits from turf removal, we find that the WSL program cost the water authority about $1.62 per thousand gallons of water saved, which compares favorably to alternative means of water conservation or supply augmentation.

Suggested Citation

  • Christa Brelsford & Joshua K. Abbott, 2018. "How Smart Are `Water Smart Landscapes'?," Papers 1803.04593, arXiv.org.
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1803.04593
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    File URL: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1803.04593
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lucas W. Davis & Alan Fuchs & Paul Gertler, 2014. "Cash for Coolers: Evaluating a Large-Scale Appliance Replacement Program in Mexico," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 207-238, November.
    2. Hunt Allcott & Todd Rogers, 2014. "The Short-Run and Long-Run Effects of Behavioral Interventions: Experimental Evidence from Energy Conservation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(10), pages 3003-3037, October.
    3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    4. Brelsford, Christa & Abbott, Joshua K., 2017. "Growing into Water Conservation? Decomposing the Drivers of Reduced Water Consumption in Las Vegas, NV," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 99-110.
    5. Paul J. Ferraro & Michael K. Price, 2013. "Using Nonpecuniary Strategies to Influence Behavior: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 64-73, March.
    6. María Bernedo & Paul Ferraro & Michael Price, 2014. "The Persistent Impacts of Norm-Based Messaging and Their Implications for Water Conservation," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 437-452, September.
    7. Castledine, A. & Moeltner, K. & Price, M.K. & Stoddard, S., 2014. "Free to choose: Promoting conservation by relaxing outdoor watering restrictions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 324-343.
    8. A. Colin Cameron & Douglas L. Miller, 2015. "A Practitioner’s Guide to Cluster-Robust Inference," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(2), pages 317-372.
    9. Lori S. Bennear & Jonathan M. Lee & Laura O. Taylor, 2013. "Municipal Rebate Programs for Environmental Retrofits: An Evaluation of Additionality and Cost‐Effectiveness," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(2), pages 350-372, March.
    10. Boomhower, Judson & Davis, Lucas W., 2014. "A credible approach for measuring inframarginal participation in energy efficiency programs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 67-79.
    11. Paul J. Ferraro & Juan José Miranda, 2017. "Panel Data Designs and Estimators as Substitutes for Randomized Controlled Trials in the Evaluation of Public Programs," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 281-317.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christa Brelsford & Caterina Bacco, 2018. "Are ‘Water Smart Landscapes’ Contagious? An Epidemic Approach on Networks to Study Peer Effects," Networks and Spatial Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 577-613, September.

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