Household water consumption in an arid city: Affluence, affordance, and attitudes

Sharon Harlan, Scott T. Yabiku, Larissa Larsen, Anthony J. Brazel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Reducing consumption in affluent urban households is perhaps the most important driver of future natural resource conservation. This article examines how water consumption in individual households is affected by income and determines whether household amenities or attitudes toward community and the environment mediate the effect of income on residential water use, net of other factors. We matched household social surveys, property characteristics, and climate variables with 24 months of individually metered water usage records for single-family houses in Phoenix, AZ. Household income had a positive, significant effect on consumption that was mediated by house size. Irrigable lot size and landscape type also had significant effects on consumption, although attitudes did not. In order to promote environmentally sustainable behavior we must develop better models of the social organization of consumption and encourage affluent households to be more attuned to the water affordances of their lifestyles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-709
Number of pages19
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Affluence
  • Conservation behavior
  • Environmental attitudes and behavior
  • Equity and sustainability
  • Household consumption
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Water resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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