Long-Term Perceptions and Actions of the Public to Address Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Pacific Northwest, USA

Long-Term Perceptions and Actions of the Public to Address Sustainable Water Resource Management in the Pacific Northwest, USA

Robert L. Mahler

Department of Soil and Water Systems, University of Idaho, USA

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© 2021 IIETA. This article is published by IIETA and is licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).



The purpose of this paper is to examine public perceptions and the voluntary actions that have been taken to address the quality and quantity of water resources over a 32-year period in the Pacific North-west. Mail-based surveys were used to collect data in 1988, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2019 in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. In each survey year, the minimum sample size was 400 adult residents and appropriate statistics were used to evaluate survey answers. Since 1988, a majority of surveyed residents have considered (1) drinking water, (2) wetlands, (3) snowpack, (4) power generation, (5) commerce, (6) industry and (7) aquatic organisms very important. Compared with data initially collected in 1988 (21.6%), over 92% of the survey respondents undertook at least one voluntary action to address water quantity such as installing in-home water- saving devices, reducing water use in the home, reducing water use in the yard and/or changing the way vehicles were washed by 2019. Compared with 1988 (16.2%), over 72% of the survey respondents took one or more actions to protect water quality by 2019. Some of these voluntary actions to protect water quality included better disposal of hazardous household and/or yard chemicals, improved use of fertilizers and pesticides in yards, reduction in yard watering practices to reduce chemical leaching or erosion and proper disposal of used automobile/truck oil products. These surveys conducted over a 32-year period show that less than 10 and 8% of the surveyed public have not taken at least one action to positively address water quantity and water quality issues, respectively. These results are impressive because they show that the public have been engaged in protecting their water resources. Any activity that protects water quality and/or reduces water use makes the water resources of this region, which encompasses more than 26% of the USA’s land area more sustainable.


public opinion, sustainable water resource management, voluntary actions to protect water, water quality, water quantity


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