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Project ID:2005OK45B

Title: Science, Development & Public Opinion: The Adjudication of Groundwater Policy for the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer

Project Type: Research

Start Date: 03/01/2006

End Date: 02/28/2007

Congressional District: 2, 4

Focus Categories: Groundwater, Law, Institutions, and Policy, Education

Keywords: Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, public opinion, environmental policy, science, sociology

Principal Investigator: Caniglia, Beth

Federal Funds: $6,083

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $13,317

Abstract: In May 2004, the Oklahoma State Legislature passed Senate Bill 288, which places a moratorium on the issuance of temporary permits that would result in the usage of water from a "sensitive sole source" aquifer outside of its home county, until a scientific study is conducted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB). The purpose of the OWRB study is to approve "a maximum annual yield that will ensure that any permit for the removal of water from a sensitive sole source groundwater basin or subbasin will not reduce the natural flow of water from springs or streams emanating from said basin or subbasin" (ENR. S. B. NO. 288).

The proposed study is designed to follow the impact of the OWRB study on public opinion, citizen activism and legislative decision making. Following the impact of this hydrological study is of intellectual import. Environmental policy is frequently based upon natural science. While natural science is often billed as the central determinant in environmental policy decision-making, sociologists argue that the impact of policy science studies varies based on several factors including: the extent to which findings and predictions are certain, the extent to which the scientific processes and findings are clearly communicated to various publics, and the extent to which relevant authorities possess political capacity and will to enact the recommendations of scientists. To date, we have been unable to find extant systematic studies within the sociology of science, technology and environment that empirically measure the impact of policy science from its inception to its policy conclusions. The current study is designed to fill this gap. By systematically examining the impact of information related to the OWRB study on public opinion, citizen activism and legislative decisions, this research will provide an empirically informed model of the role of science in the formation of environmental policy in the Arbuckle-Simpson case.

This project speaks specifically to the interbasin water transfer and aquifer decline priority specified in the 2006 OWRRI request for proposals. Previous OWRRI funding for this project was used to assemble benchmark public opinion data, which have resulted in three conference presentations and one journal article. This proposal requests funds to conduct Phase II interviews. The data from these semi-structured interviews will be transcribed and analyzed using NVivo qualitative analysis software. Comparisons between these and the benchmark data will enable initial evaluation of the effectiveness of OWRB communication of their study results. Aside from traditional academic outcomes, such as journal publications and conference presentations, the results of this study will contribute to the ongoing efforts of OWRB to effectively communicate their study results to target publics.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Friday, January 18, 2008
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