Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013CA310B

Assessing Water Quality & Conservation Attitudes in a Low-Income Multi-Ethnic, Urban California Community

Institute: California
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,400 Total Non-Federal Funds: $2,444

Principal Investigators: Leigh Johnson

Abstract: Water supplies are critical to urban populations in southern California. These supplies and the associated ecosystems are impacted by residents decisions with respect to water conservation, pollution prevention and landscape plants that may infest riparian areas. Public educational programs, which are typically designed to motivate middle- and upper-income audiences to adopt sustainable behaviors, have failed in urban communities with lower-income and culturally diverse residents (personal communication, Leslie Reynolds, Groundwork San Diego). Social values are associated with ecosystem services (Dietz et al 2005, Daniel et al. 2012) and are influenced by cultural contexts. A better understanding of the social values that urban low-income, multi-ethnic communities associate with local ecosystem services is needed to improve effectiveness of educational programs to motivate adoption of environmentally sustainable behaviors to increase success in community-based, water management programs. The US Geological Surveys SolVES software can be used to integrate social values data associated with landscape elements with data associated with environmental variables within GIS warehouses. SolVES has been applied to social values data collected from visitors to protected areas such as national forests and parks (Sherrouse et al. 2011, Van Riper et al. 2012). Regressing such data with respect to various environmental management alternatives provided insights on anticipated stakeholder reactions to these options. Such techniques could be applied to determine social values associated with waters environmental services in urban, low-income and ethnically diverse communities. In turn, these data would provide guidance for framing public education programs to motivate environmentally sustainable behavior in these communities. Focus group research is needed to inform development of survey instruments for research on social values associated with ecosystem services provided by watersheds and surface waters in the landscape of the Chollas Creek south branch area of San Diego, California. African American, Hispanic and other cultural groups share this watershed. Grass roots organizations report that they are aggregated into largely separate neighborhoods with distinctive local cultures and that focus group facilitators/recorders should represent the populations attending group interviews. Research results may be useful to City of San Diego and grass roots organizations as they develop new educational programs for urban residents with respect to water conservation, pollution prevention and landscape plants that may infest riparian areas. We also anticipate developing an associated proposal for a survey to include collecting place-based data for analysis by USGS SolVES software.