American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
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Technical Understanding and Community-Based Water Quality Planning: A comparison of three Iowa watersheds
Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org
Citation: Watershed Management to Meet Water Quality Standards and Emerging TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) Proceedings of the Third Conference 5-9 March 2005 (Atlanta, Georgia USA) Publication Date 5 March 2005 701P0105.(doi:10.13031/2013.18085)
Authors: M. M. Wagner
Keywords: Stakeholder Process, Citizen Participation in TMDL Process, Implementation Planning
Community and watershed-based water quality enhancement efforts are complex—
usually involving multiple pollutants, varying land uses and management practices, and a wide
range of human understanding. Exploring these social differences creates understanding that is
formative to structuring their participation in water quality planning. How does the community’s
understanding of local impaired conditions compare with the water quality specialists working
with them? Are these differences significant in developing implementation strategies?
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This research assessed similarities and differences in the technical understanding of local
water quality conditions between residents and the water quality specialists working with them in
three watershed-scale enhancement projects. The assessment yielded a detailed understanding of
residents’ knowledge and beliefs important for future outcomes including a largely inaccurate
understanding of basic technical causes and sources of local water pollution in two of the three
case studies. Conflicts were also identified between what residents understood and believed
about the conservation value of specific land management practices and their actual contribution
to water quality. Results were utilized to set the tone of future communication with the
watershed and plan implementation strategies that residents would be willing to accept.
Social assessment that compares technical understanding, perceptions, and beliefs can produce
useful information for TMDL coordinators, state and federal agency staff, local soil and water
conservation districts, and residents collaborating on projects. Given the large numbers of
planning projects that require effective public participation for decision-making and
implementation to meet water quality objectives, methodologies to identify this type of data will