CHANGES IN PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF RIVER BASIN MANAGEMENT PRIORITY ISSUES OVER THE LAST 28 YEARS IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, USA
Free (open access)
13 - 22
ROBERT L. MAHLER, MICHAEL ERNEST BARBER
Residents of the Pacific Northwest region of the USA have considered water issues their highest environmental resource priority for over 50 years. We surveyed the public living in the Columbia basin watershed in the states of Idaho, Washington and Oregon about the water issues they considered most important in 1988, 1994, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2016. Each of these six mail-based surveys was unique; however, all surveys contained three identical questions so that changes in public opinions and priorities over time could be measured. Demographic information about survey respondent gender, age, community size and formal education level were also collected. The public opinion changes observed over this 28-year period were significant. The opinions that were constant regardless of time were: (1) most people considered water in the Columbia basin to be of good or better quality, (2) most residents considered the Columbia basin to provide adequate quantities of water, (3) and over 60% of the public found that power generation was the most important benefit provided by waters of the Columbia-Snake River System. Overall, the public living in the Columbia-Snake River Watershed is engaged and care about water issues. This engagement is becoming increasingly important as more interests compete for the limited supplies of water in the region.
public concerns, public opinion, Columbia river basin, water quality, water quantity