Residents’ Preferences in Adopting Water Runoff Management Practices: Examining the Effect of Behavioral Nudges in a Field Experiment

Track 3B: Monitoring and Managing Pollution from the Urban Environment
Thursday, October 12, 2017, 3:40 pm – 5:10 pm

Kent Messer
Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment
Department of Applied Economics & Statistics
University of Delaware

Numerous watersheds in the US have been severely polluted by nutrient-laden runoff, and the pollutants come from industrial, agricultural, and residential sources. Efforts to reduce such pollution have focused almost entirely on industrial and agricultural sources, and little attention has been paid to encouraging residents to manage and reduce runoff from their homes despite MS4 regulations. Our economics research studied residents’ willingness to adopt water runoff-management practices for their lawns and other landscaping. In the experiment, 336 individuals who resided in the Delaware River watershed revealed their willingness to pay (WTP) for five runoff-management practices. We tested the effects of two behavioral nudges, framing and default priming, on their WTP. The framing treatments examined the effectiveness of positive framing and negative framing. The results show that positive framing increased average WTP while negative framing had no significant impact. Default priming did not influence participants’ decision about whether to bid but did have a positive impact on WTP by participants who placed bids.