WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH GRANT PROPOSAL
Project ID: 2005OH27B
Title: Technology Enhanced Participation for Watershed Planning
Project Type: Research
Focus Categories: Management and Planning, Conservation, Education
Keywords: watershed planning, citizen participation, Internet, BMP
Start Date: 03/01/2005
End Date: 02/28/2006
Federal Funds: $17,844
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $48,092
Congressional District: 15
Maria Manta Conroy
The Ohio State University
Steven I. Gordon
The Ohio State University
Watershed management brings to bear a number of integrated issues related to land use, hydrology, biology, policy development, and political feasibility. The geographic scope and ecological diversity of a watershed further challenges the decision making environment. Such a complex environment can be challenging for farmers and other land owners to understand the impacts of their own actions at the watershed level. Yet, these citizens are the key to watershed management implementation success, especially with voluntary measures such as the use of Best Management Practices, or BMPs.
BMPs are usually voluntary measures undertaken by landowners, typically farmers, to mitigate negative impacts of their practices on waterways. Farmers and other land owners learn about BMPs through a variety of channels, including extension services and public meetings. Public meetings are also the typical forum in which input is received on watershed planning activities that may incorporate BMP implementation. Public meetings, however, have been characterized as an inefficient means for public learning on a complex topic such as watershed management. Technology enhanced participation approaches such as online discussion groups and interactive Geographic Information Systems hold great potential for improving citizen understanding of, commitment to, and satisfaction with watershed protection strategies.
The Great Miami River Watershed is our study area for instituting technology-based active learning participation for watershed planning. This watershed is predominantly agriculture, though there is strong potential for future development. BMPs are currently in place in the watershed. There is, however, no research regarding the relationship between their implementation and the biological quality of the watershed. Further, the existing means by which to educate the public regarding BMPs and to gain input and insights for related watershed plans and policies is the public meeting which is often both inefficient and ineffective. We propose to address these two problems in the Great Miami River Watershed through the establishment of an online watershed planning participation venue.
We will address the research problems through two interrelated objectives: The first objective is to establish the relationship between implemented BMPs and biological quality in the Great Miami Watershed using BMP funding data and biological quality data available from Ohio EPA. This information will be used to select areas of study within the watershed and to formulate watershed policies for inclusion in public meeting and online discussions. The second objective is to inform public officials, land managers, and other watershed stakeholders of the management choices for their watershed through in person and online participation venues, examining the effectiveness of the integrative approach. BMP-water quality data will be integrated into an existing online interactive GIS site addressing general watershed issues, as well as data specific to the Great Miami Watershed. We will also establish an online watershed community for discussions, polls, and expert forums. This online participation venue will be coordinated with two traditional public meetings (one pre-online community availability and one post), and training sessions. These meetings will be the forum for pre and post-test surveys which will include questions to characterize participants (e.g., demographic information), their understanding of and attitudes toward watershed planning issues (including commitment to proposed watershed policies), their current participation habits in watershed planning, online participation habits (post-test), and their computer and Internet familiarity. These surveys will provide the means to examine the possible impact of the online experience on watershed education, attitudes, and commitment levels to the proposed watershed policies.