Using Social Indicators to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Outreach in Two Indiana Watersheds

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Journal/Book Title

Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education

Publication Date



Universities Council on Water Resources





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Nonpoint source pollution is recognized as one of the greatest threats to water quality in the United States. Outreach is one tool that can be used to help increase public awareness and motivate action towards addressing water issues. In order to create effective outreach, we must understand public perceptions of water quality, perceived barriers to implementing environmental solutions, and what types of outreach best connect with target audiences. In 2010, social indicator surveys were distributed in two watersheds in Indiana to gather baseline data on urban and agricultural residents' attitudes towards and usage of water quality conservation practices. Local watershed organizations then used various outreach methods to encourage residents to implement specific practices. In 2014, post‐project surveys were conducted in both watersheds to assess whether the outreach efforts had been effective. Even with outreach efforts, many residents still were unaware that specific water pollutants were problems in their watershed. There were, however, positive changes in overall water quality attitudes. Changes in awareness and adoption of conservation practices varied by watershed and resident type, yet generally moved in a positive direction or were unchanged. The primary barrier to practice adoption for all respondents was cost. Outreach events were generally not well attended and did little to change attendee behavior. Some outreach activities seem to be more useful than others in terms of self‐reported effectiveness while others are clearly visible to the community and may be a helpful way to raise awareness.

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