Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Applied Economics


It is unclear whether current water supplies in Utah will be able to accommodate the needs of the future. Population in the state is expected to double by 2050 and climate change models predict declines in water availability in the region. Public perceptions of the adequacy of the water supply (and concerns about potential shortages) are key factors that could influence water use behaviors and support for public policy interventions. This paper explores the research question: "Are young people in Utah more concerned about water shortages than older cohorts?" It was expected that young people would be more concerned about water shortages because they have the highest material stake in avoiding future water crises in the state. Data from a large public survey of representative Utah adults (n=6,800) is used in multivariate models to investigate the relationship between age and perceptions and concerns about water shortages, controlling for sociodemographic attributes and independent estimates of the biophysical adequacy of water supplies in the respondent's place of residence. Results show that adults in all age groups are somewhat concerned about future water supplies in their community, but age is positively related to the degree of concern (net the effect of other variables in the model). These findings support an emerging body of research that suggests a cohort shift in patterns of environmental concern in the United States. The paper explores implications of the findings for public officials seeking to motivate residents to conserve water and support public investments to secure future water supplies.



Faculty Mentor

Douglas Jackson-Smith

Departmental Honors Advisor

Ryan Bosworth

Capstone Committee Member

Melissa Haeffner