Back to the Source: Consumer Behavior in Response to Different Sources of Recycled Irrigation Water

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Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.
Using recycled water to irrigate agricultural products can be an effective solution to water scarcity. However, a better understanding of how society evaluates different sources of recycled water provides insights into potential demand-side barriers to adoption of these solutions. This paper implements a field economic experiment conducted in the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States that evaluates consumers’ willingness-to-pay for three sources of recycled irrigation water: “gray”, “black”, and “produced”. Our analysis indicates that people consider certain sources of recycled water more acceptable for irrigating produce than others. Recycled gray water is preferred to recycled-produced water, and both are preferred to recycled black water. We also explore how adult consumers respond to scientific information about the benefits and risks of using recycled irrigation water, and find that it does not mitigate consumers’ concerns.
Reused water, Reclaimed water, Drought, Water management, Stigma