Getting to better water quality outcomes: the promise and challenge of the citizen effect
- 286 Downloads
Agriculture is a major cause of non-point source water pollution in the Midwest. Excessive nitrate, phosphorous, and sediment levels degrade the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. In this research we ask, to what extent can citizen involvement help solve the problem of non-point source pollution. Does connecting farmers to farmers and to other community members make a difference in moving beyond the status quo? To answer these questions we examine the satisfaction level of Iowa farmers and landowners with their current conservation measures as a proxy for willingness to change. A survey of 360 conservation minded farmers obtained from a random sample of 75 HUC (Hydrologic Unit Code) 12 Iowa watersheds reveals that 27% of the variance among farmers’ perception of adequacy of their conservation practices is explained by a combination of beliefs about the seriousness of water pollution, personal, civic, and expert connections. The more farmers talk with other farmers the more likely they are satisfied with their conservation efforts. However, the more frequently farmers talk to friends and neighbors that don’t farm, the more likely they are to not be satisfied with their conservation efforts. Further, the more social organizations farmers belong to—e.g., more non-farmers they interact with in a group setting—the more likely they are to be dissatisfied with their level of effort being adequate to protect local water bodies. These findings suggest the personal and civic connections among farmers and communities are important in explaining perceptions of how adequate conservation measures are. These perceptions have implications for farmers’ willingness to go beyond current actions and more actively engage in solving local watershed problems and explain why they may not currently be engaged in additional actions.
KeywordsCitizen effect Civic structure Conservation practices Farmers’ perceptions Water quality Watershed problem solving
Hydrologic Unit Code
Environmental Protection Agency
Non point source
Conservation Reserve Program
United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Iowa State University
Soil and Water Conservation District
This research is funded by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) United States Department of Agriculture under Agreement No.2002-51130-01515 Heartland Regional Water Quality Coordination Initiative.
- Albrecht, D., G. Bultena, E. Hoiberg, and P. Nowak. 1982. The new environmental paradigm scale. Journal of Environmental Education 13: 39–43.Google Scholar
- Buttel, F.H., G.W. Gillespie Jr., and O.W. Larson III. 1981. The social bases of agrarian environmentalism: A comparative analysis of New York and Michigan farm operators. Rural Sociology 46 (3): 391–410.Google Scholar
- Flora, C.B. 2004. Social aspects of small water systems. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education 128: 6–12.Google Scholar
- Innes, J.E. 1990. Knowledge and public policy: The search for meaningful indicators. New Brunswick: Transaction.Google Scholar
- Libra, R.D. 1998. Nitrate-nitrogen: Iowa’s unintended export. Iowa Geology, 23. Iowa city: Iowa Department of Natural Resources.Google Scholar
- Lowe, G.D., and K. Thomas. 1982. Rural-urban difference in support for environmental protection. Rural Sociology 47 (1): 114–128.Google Scholar
- Lyson, Thomas.A 2004. Civic agriculture: Reconnecting farm, food, and community. Medford, MA: Tufts University Press.Google Scholar
- McCown, R.L. 2005. New thinking about farmer decision makers. In The farmer’s decision, ed. J.L. Hatfield, 11–44. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society.Google Scholar
- Morton, L.W. 2003a. Small town services and facilities: The influence of social capital and civic structure on perceptions of quality. City & Community 2 (2): 99–118.Google Scholar
- Morton, L.W. 2003b. Civic structure. In Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world, ed. K. Christiansen and D. Levinson, 179–182. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Morton, L.W. 2003c. Civic watershed communities. In Walking towards justice: Democratization in rural life, ed. M.M. Bell, F.T. Hendricks, and A. Bacal, 121–134. Amsterdam: Research in rural sociology and development vol. 9 JAI/Elsevier.Google Scholar
- Morton, L.W. 2008. The role of civic structure in achieving performance-based watershed management. Society and Natural Resources 21:751–766.http://www.informaworld.com.
- Morton, L.W., and S. Brown. 2007. Water issues in the Four State Heartland Region: A survey of public perceptions and attitudes about water. Department of sociology, technical report SP289. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University.Google Scholar
- Morton, L.W., and S. Padgitt. 2005. Selecting socio-economic metrics for watershed management. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 103: 83–98.Google Scholar
- Prilleltensky, I. 1994. The morals and politics of psychology: Psychological discourse and the status quo. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Seechi, S., P.W. Gassman, M. Jha, L. Kurkalova, H.H. Fend, T. Campbell, and C.L. Kling. 2007. The cost of cleaner water: Assessing agricultural pollution reduction at the watershed scale. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 62 (1): 10–21.Google Scholar
- Tremblay Jr., K.R., and R.E. Dunlap. 1978. Rural-urban residence and concern with environmental quality: A replication and extension. Rural Sociology 43 (3): 474–491.Google Scholar
- U.S. EPA. 2002. National water quality inventory 2000 report. Washington, DC: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. http://www.epa.gov/305b/. Accessed 7 Oct 2008.
- Young, F.W., and T.A. Lyson. 2001. Structural pluralism and all-cause mortality. American Journal of Public Health 91 (1): 136–138.Google Scholar