Citizen Involvement in Local Watershed Management: Building Extension Capacity

Lois Wright Morton, Faculty, Sociology

Situation:

The Mississippi River basin, the center of U.S. agricultural crop production, drains 40 percent of the continental U.S. into the Gulf of Mexico (Libra 1998). This 140 cubic miles of water delivers an average of 1.65 million tons annually of nitrogen along with excessive phosphorous, sediment and bacteria (Libra 1998). Four states (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas) located in the Heartland EPA Region 7 rank as top 10 producers of cattle, swine, poultry, soybean, corn, wheat, milo, cotton and rice and are major contributors to non point source pollution. Expert technical assistance to landowners has been insufficient to assure adoption of and sustained land use practices that reduce pollution levels. Human and social factors are important influencers of landowner decisions. However technical agency staff and educators often do not understand these factors and as a result are less effective than they could be. This Extension capacity building program targets agricultural educators, institutions and agencies working with landowners with the goal of helping agencies and their staff to increase the integration of the human and social dimension into their intervention programs. Capacity building means increasing institutional capacities to link education and technical intervention in effective ways.

Objective:

The objective of this 4 year project is to increase the capacity of local watershed groups in the four-state Heartland region so they act to improve their water quality by helping local leaders, extension and agency resource personnel learn to trust each other and work together to understand the human/social aspects of their watershed and the implications for changing and sustaining land use practices that result in positive environmental impacts. 

Activities/Output:

Planning and coordination meetings with the Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative Citizen Involvement in Watershed Management team, 4-state [Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa] targeted extension educators, agency personnel and researchers

Case study research on Nebraska Saline wetlands documenting relationships, networks, attitudes and beliefs about land practices and water quality completed. [MS student]

Missouri survey of 75 randomly selected watershed conducted and data analysis in process.
Preparation of manuscripts linking theory to empirical evidence based on watershed research on the social relations within watershed groups.

Findings from research on citizen effect in water quality were targeted to the science community and agency professionals, extension, and community leaders through three national presentations and four regional presentations:

Renewing Local Watersheds: Community Leaders Guide to Building Watershed Communities EDC278 manual for starting and maintaining a local watershed group first published in 2002; updated 2006 and available on line and CD.

Impact/Outcomes:

As a result of presentations, interactions, and research that links citizen involvement to water quality management and decision making, two refereed journal articles were written and accepted for publication, five technical reports summarizing research findings were published, two new watershed grants received, one new Iowa citizen watershed group was formed [western Plymouth County under Joel Dejong leadership] and five existing Iowa watershed groups were supported in their organizational development and land practices decisions. One graduate student MS thesis, The Endangered Species Act, Local Power and Contested Issues on the Rural-Urban Interface, was written and defended for August 2007 graduation.

State, national and international recognition of Heartland/ISU leadership in human dimensions research. Ex: Request for presentation of Iowa research findings to Iowa water improvement subcommittee; Iowa technical report website discovered and widely shared among state agency professionals. Requests for research information from Oklahoma State University, water quality coordinator; Geography student from Germany writing thesis on implications of farmers ways of thinking about resource use for watershed management design. MetroWaste educator is using Renewing Local Watersheds: Community Leaders Guide to Building Watershed Communities in MetroWaste education programs with citizens and community groups they work with.

Publications
Refereed
Morton, L. W. [forthcoming] The Role of Civic Structure in Achieving Performance Based Watershed Management Society & Natural Resources

Morton, L.W. Getting to Better Water Quality Outcomes: The Promise & Challenge of the Citizen Effect  Lyson Memorial volume Cornell University

Public
Morton, L.W., Brown, S. (2007). Water Issues in the Four State Heartland Region: A Survey of Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Water The Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative Bulletin #SP289 Iowa State University Extension http://www.heartlandwq.iastate.edu

Morton, L.W., Brown, S. (2007). Water Issues in Iowa: A Survey of Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Water  The Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative Bulletin #SP290 Iowa State University Extension http://www.heartlandwq.iastate.edu

Morton, L.W., Brown, S. (2007). Water Issues in Nebraska: A Survey of Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Water  The Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative Bulletin #SP291 Iowa State University Extension http://www.heartlandwq.iastate.edu

Morton, L.W., Brown, S. (2007). Water Issues in Kansas: A Survey of Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Water  The Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative Bulletin #SP292 Iowa State University Extension http://www.heartlandwq.iastate.edu

Morton, L.W., Brown, S. (2007). Water Issues in Missouri: A Survey of Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Water  The Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative Bulletin # SP293 Iowa State University Extension http://www.heartlandwq.iastate.edu

Grants

Miller, G. A. and L.W. Morton 2007. Lime Creek Market-based Nonpoint Source Management Project Iowa Watershed Improvement Board. $116,141.

Miller, G. A. and L.W. Morton. 2007 Coldwater-Palmer Creek Performance-based Environmental Project Iowa Watershed Improvement Board $116,141.

June 2007
160 Natural Resources & Environmental Stewardship


Page last updated: August 2, 2007
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu