Utah State University and University of Utah are surveying communities around the state to gauge annual household water use and resident perspectives on water policies — information that will help state and local water managers understand residents’ needs.
USU students are going door-to-door throughout 21 neighborhoods across three Utah valleys — Cache, Salt Lake and Heber/Midway — for residents to fill out surveys. In the Logan area, selected survey neighborhoods include parts of the downtown and Island areas, parts of North Logan, River Heights, Providence and Nibley.
Survey participants will be asked about how they use water inside and outside their home; their perspective on whether or not there is enough water in the valley; their relationship with bodies of water near their neighborhoods and how strongly they would oppose or support various policies.
The survey process should be completed within a year.
“It’s a great way ... to better inform decision makers and to see ways that those research findings may be used to create policy changes,” said USU student Grant Holyoak, a junior majoring in sociology and economics, who is coordinating the study. “I think (water is) one of the more relevant subjects we can talk about, particularly in the West, where we have talk of drought and changing weather patterns. This is something that’s talked about at every level (of government), but this is Utah’s story that we hope to find — finding our niche in a larger story as far as water scarcities and water use is concerned.”
The USU-UofU study is part of the larger iUtah (innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-Sustainability) project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation to study all aspects of water in the state. Utah was awarded a five-year, $20 million competitive grant for iUtah in 2012.
Courtney Flint, USU associate professor of Natural Resource Sociology, said the study should yield insightful results.
“This is an effort to cover a wide diversity of neighborhoods throughout the state to see if neighborhoods are similar or different in how they use and think about water,” she said. “The reason we’re going to individuals is because we think there’s a lot of conversations about policy being developed and water being managed across the state. These residents seem such that they should have a voice, and this is a scientific approach to giving residents a voice on a variety of water issues.”
This water study is different from others on the issue, she explained.
“We’re aware of a few studies that have been done in singular communities, but this is the first study that we’re aware of that’s cutting across such a wide area and reaching so many people with the same approach,” Flint said.
Flint said the results would provide enough data for future in-depth studies.
In preparing for the research, Flint said she and USU students have had conversations with officials in Nibley, Providence and Logan.
Mark Nielsen, Logan public works director, said the water study will help the city identify educational needs for the public and how they can help citizens think about how to landscape in a way that will help manage future water use.
“I believe the more information we can obtain about people's habits regarding the use of water will help us to identify conservation measures that make sense,” Nielsen wrote in an email to The Herald Journal. “The management of water in the future will become more difficult due to a fixed resource such as water supply. The only options to allow for future growth is for everyone to maximize the benefit they receive for their share of water.”
Don Calderwood, mayor of Providence, said the study is worthy of consideration, and Flint and the USU students involved have been invited to talk to the city council during a June meeting.
“It seems to be a well balanced survey,” Calderwood said. “I think we could get good things from it, but I’m not sure yet. ... Everybody, I’m sure, can find ways to conserve water and not have it interfere with their lifestyle.”