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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

Linking Public Attitudes with Perceptions of Factors Impacting Water Quality and Attending Learning Activities


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 36 No. 1, p. 36-44
    Received: June 22, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): David.clay@sdstate.edu
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  1. D. E. Clay *a,
  2. C. Rena,
  3. C. Reesea,
  4. R. Waskomb,
  5. J. Bauderc,
  6. N. Mesnerd,
  7. G. Paigee,
  8. K. Reddye,
  9. M. Neibauerb and
  10. R. Mahlerf
  1. a South Dakota State Univ., Brookings SD 57007
    b Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523
    c Montana State Univ., Bozeman, MT 59717
    d Utah State Univ., Logan UT 84322
    e Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071
    f Univ. of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844. South Dakota State Univ. Exp. Stn. no. 3568. Support for this research was provided by the USDA-CSREES-406 Water Quality Program grant no. 2004-51130-02248


Increasingly, people are being asked to make decisions about water use in the semi-arid regions of the United States. “Good decisions” depend on an understanding of the linkages between sustainability of the resource, management, and economic development. This article reports on findings from a water quality survey conducted in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. The survey goals were to: (1) identify linkages between perceptions and perceived factors degrading water quality; and (2) define how to implement educational programming that would ultimately lead to improved water quality. Findings from the survey suggest that many peoples’ perceptions about water use, the importance of adopting improved techniques, and factors influencing water quality were not in harmony. For example, the use of improved grazing techniques was identified as very or extremely important by 65% of the respondents even though the consequences of poor livestock or manure management (high bacterial counts in water) were identified in 19% of the respondents as a suspected or known problem. These results were attributed to many people not having a clear understanding of the relationships between water quality and the adoption of natural resource management techniques. Improving peoples’ ability to link perceptions and problems will require educational programs that integrate problems with solutions. Surprisingly, most respondents did not identify a willingness to attend structured learning activities (short course, watch video, obtain certification, or be trained), where detailed problems and solutions can be explored. To overcome this problem, educators should consider developing targeted and sequential educational programming which employs print or video media.

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