Free to Choose: Promoting Conservation by Relaxing Outdoor Watering Restrictions

Anita Castledine, Klaus Moeltner, Michael Price, Shawn Stoddard

NBER Working Paper No. 20362
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s):   EEE

Many water utilities use outdoor watering restrictions based on assigned weekly watering days to promote conservation and delay costly capacity expansions. We find that such policies can lead to unintended consequences - customers who adhere to the prescribed schedule use more water than those following a more flexible irrigation pattern. For our application to residential watering in a high-desert environment, this "rigidity penalty" is robust to an exogenous policy change that allowed an additional watering day per week. Our findings contribute to the growing literature on leakage effects of regulatory policies. In our case inefficiencies arise as policies limit the extent to which agents can temporally re-allocate actions.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20362

Published: 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. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Hsiang and Jina w20352 The Causal Effect of Environmental Catastrophe on Long-Run Economic Growth: Evidence From 6,700 Cyclones
Allcott w20363 Paternalism and Energy Efficiency: An Overview
Isen, Rossin-Slater, and Walker w19858 Every Breath You Take - Every Dollar You'll Make: The Long-Term Consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970
Didier, Levine, and Schmukler w20336 Capital Market Financing, Firm Growth, Firm Size Distribution
Currie and Schwandt w20368 The 9/11 Dust Cloud and Pregnancy Outcomes: A Reconsideration
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us