California Institute for Water Resources
California Institute for Water Resources
California Institute for Water Resources
University of California
California Institute for Water Resources

Assessing water quality & conservation attitudes

Summary: 

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. However, typical public education programs have failed to motivate environmentally sustainable behaviors with respect to watershed and surface water areas of the Chollas Creek south branch in San Diego, CA. A better understanding of the social values that residents of this urban low-income, multi-ethnic community associate with local ecosystem services is needed to improve effectiveness of educational programs to motivate adoption of environmentally sustainable behaviors and to inform water management programs. Focus group interviews are needed to guide development of survey instruments to collect such data from a larger sample of the local population and to aid ongoing educational programs.

Investigator:

Leigh Taylor Johnson
Coastal Resources Advisor
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

Project description:

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. Social values are associated with ecosystem services 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 Survey’s 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. 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 water’s 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. Community organizations report that youth utilize areas around Chollas Creek and would be best able to express community values and attitudes associated with it. Focus group facilitators should represent neighborhood populations. Research results may be useful to City of San Diego and community organizations as they develop new educational programs for urban residents about water conservation, pollution prevention and landscape plants that may infest riparian areas.

We are obtaining qualitative data on how youth residing in ethnically diverse, low-income urban communities interpret social value types (aesthetic, biodiversity, cultural, economic, future, historic, intrinsic, learning, life sustaining, recreation, spiritual, therapeutic) and safety as they interact with watershed and surface water segments of the Chollas Creek south branch in San Diego, CA. We are also assessing their perceptions of water supply, water pollution and invasive riparian plants in the watershed. We will share results with organizations that are conducting public education programs to motivate environmentally sustainable behaviors.

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Earthlab community education site on restored section of Chollas Creek
(Leigh Johnson)

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Unrestored Chollas Creek section choked by invasive Arundo and trash
(Leigh Johnson)

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Chollas Creek flowing with water during rainy year (Bevelynn Bravo)

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Chollas Creek with lower water flowing past homes (Bevelynn Bravo)

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