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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?

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 be essential.

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