WIT Press

Public Actions Taken To Address Water Quality And Quantity Issues In The Northwestern USA Since 2002


Free (open access)





Page Range

263 - 274




311 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


R. L. Mahler & M. E. Barber


The purpose of this paper is to document voluntary actions the general public has taken to address water quality and quantity concerns in the northwestern USA over the last 10 years. These actions have been attributed primarily to educational outreach efforts targeted at the general public by the five land grant universities in the region. Data were collected using mail-based surveys conducted at five-year intervals in 2002, 2007 and 2012. Each survey contained between 45 and 60 questions and was mailed to 2,200 randomly chosen residents of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Return rates in excess of 50% were received for each survey ensuring that the results are statistically valid. The 2002 survey results were used as base line data. More than 85% of the region’s adults have made lifestyle changes to address water quantity issues. For instance, 70% have installed at least one water-saving appliance in their home, 49% report that they have reduced water use in their yards, 64% have reduced water use in their home, and 32% have reduced the amount of water used washing their cars. Conversely, only 13% have not made voluntary changes to address the amount of water used. Almost 82% of adults have acted to improve water quality. Voluntary water quality actions taken include: changed the disposal of household wastes (60%), reduced the use of fertilizers and pesticides in yards (46%), and changed the disposal of used motor oil (65%). Less than 19% of adults have not voluntarily addressed water quality issues in their homes. This study demonstrates that public education used to cause positive voluntary actions is very effective and may work better than the regulatory approach in this region of the USA. Keywords: public opinion, public actions, voluntary actions, water quality, water quantity, positive life-style change.


Keywords: public opinion, public actions, voluntary actions, water quality, waterquantity, positive life-style change.