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FAU study finds rainfall signs promoted water conservation in Wellington neighborhoods

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jun 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-27 08:37:50-04

Could something as simple as a sign help save thousands of gallons of water a day? The answer is yes, according to Florida Atlantic University researchers.

In fact, they conducted a two year study in Wellington that found people ended up watering their lawns less when they were confronted with a sign posted at the entrance of their neighborhood informing them of the weekly rainfall and whether that was enough to keep their lawn healthy.

Wellington resident John Neff said he’s been consciously cutting back.

“The last three weeks we haven’t needed our sprinklers on at all.”

Neff says one of the reasons he started watering less was because of a sign that used to be posted at the entrance of his neighborhood. 

"The more I started to think about it,” said Neff.

The sign showed the seven day rainfall totals for the area and pointed out that the average lawn only needs about one inch of rain each week.

However, it was actually part of an FAU two-year research project.

“Between those two pieces of information, there is a question below that, is rainfall already watering your lawn,” explained Dr. Felicia Survis who recently earned her PH.D. at FAU.

Survis and her advisor Dr. Tara Root were looking to see if something as simple as a sign could help save more water than water restrictions alone.

“We were looking to see if people would cut down, or in some case turn off their system, during those weeks where those signs were showing inches of rainfall,” said Survis.

The answer was yes. The study looked at more than 600 Wellington households divided in two groups. Only one group had the signs displaying the rainfall information in their neighborhoods.

The study found that the group of families who were forced to drive by the signs saved more water or watered their lawn less than the other group.

In fact, during the summer rainy season,  this experimental group watered their lawns 61 percent less than the other group.

“The results were surprising even to us,” said Survis.

She says the results that prove there may be more we can do to save water, and it might be something as simple and low cost as a sign.

“Water restrictions in and of themselves are a great place to start, but more water savaging can be had,” said Survis. “It’s just a matter of getting information out to people.”