People: What are they Thinking?!

Studying people – now that’s a big job! Back in September PREP partnered with Assistant Professor Shannon Rogers at Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment and the researchers at NH EPSCoR to answer the curious and important topic of people and their attitudes, feelings and perceptions about water resources. The people we studied are not some strange foreign population but our own neighbors, friends and relatives here in the Seacoast and the state of NH – maybe someone reading this was contacted for the survey!  
What does water mean to you?

What does water mean to you?

We know it’s important to study the ecosystem, habitats and waters of the estuaries for PREP’s work, however, it is equally as important that we understand the people who live in the habitats, drink and play in the waters and whose actions have impacts both positive and negative on the lands and waters of the Seacoast.

We so are very excited to share results of the survey this month! Working with the UNH Survey Center, there were more than 600 responses to a 10-minute phone interview with randomly sampled NH and PREP region residents. There were so many interesting and important things that came out of this survey and we encourage everyone to thoroughly read the full report

One thing that stuck with us – people care a lot about our region’s water and most are willing to take action and pay more money to protect and preserve our waters. 

Here is what we learned from respondents in the PREP region:

  • 90% are concerned with the level of pollution in local streams, rivers, lakes and bays;
  • 87% willing to take action to reduce stormwater pollution, especially if it lowered water and sewer bills;
  • 70% agreed to paying higher water and sewer fees to improve cleanliness of water bodies;
  • 46% agree that what they do on their property has an impact on the overall clean water in the community
  • 78% agree that economic stability of their community depends upon clean rivers, streams, lakes and bays.
A word art illustrating responses to how respondents use our local waterways, there were over 30 unique activities shared

A word art illustrating responses to how respondents use our local waterways, there were over 30 unique activities shared

The survey also explored residents’ concerns about flooding, wildlife, access to water, availability of drinking water, use of fertilizer and lawn care behavior and their awareness of local government and rules and regulations. Like we said, there’s A LOT of great information and knowledge to be gleaned. There are also some useful recommendations on how this wealth of knowledge can be used by different folks and further ideas for additional research and projects.
Check out the recommendations here in the Executive Summary.
The story of how residents relate to, use, value and are willing to protect our waters and lands is a complex one and this survey is just the start to unveiling the story.  We at PREP are committed to further study and research of the always intriguing and infinitely fascinating ecosystem of people and society also called social science research. Our goal is to begin to develop social indicators that we can monitor alongside our environmental indicators in our State of the Estuaries Reports.
We’d love to hear what you think of this valuable and intriguing research, please share your feedback with us.

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.