Water Researchers Release Results of Municipal Household Surveys
May 05, 2016 05:02PM
● By Bryan Scott
By Rachel Molenda | [email protected]
West Valley - A group of researchers recently released results from surveys conducted throughout the Salt Lake Valley, including West Valley City, about water in an effort to learn more about residents’ behaviors and perceptions as it relates to water.
Melissa Haeffner, Ph.D. at Utah State University, said the research is meant to examine the impact of Utah’s urban growth and development on water, particularly along the Wasatch Front, the Jordan River, the Logan River and in the Provo River watershed. Haeffner called iUTAH’s research “unique,” in that researchers are pairing science with the social aspect of this urbanization.
“We want to make the connection between what’s going on in our water sources with what is society doing. How is society using the water and thinking about water and water policy in the West?” Haeffner said.
The household surveys were conducted during the summer of 2014 as part of innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-sustainability—iUTAH. The five-year program, funded by the National Science Foundation, is in its fourth year and is collaboration between universities, government agencies, industry partners and nonprofits in the state to study all things water.
In West Valley City, 60 percent of those selected households responded, which amounts to 103 total respondents, according to survey highlights. Survey results showed researchers that West Valley residents are aware of how much water use costs and how much they spend. But less than 40 percent reported they knew how much water they used.
Ninety-seven percent of residents reported they water their lawns, 88 percent saying this could changed based on the weather.
And while many felt they could do more to conserve water use, “a small minority” of residents reported actually decreasing use over the last five years, according to the survey.
While a third of West Valley City residents asked said they believe there is currently enough water supply, 39 percent said they are worried about supplies in the future. Eighty-nine percent of residents supported voluntary water restrictions—as well as 69 percent supporting mandatory restrictions in public spaces like parks and golf courses—in the event of short-term water shortages.
Sixty-five percent of those who participated in the survey supported limiting future housing developments and reusing treated wastewater as part of long-term water policy in West Valley City.
While Haeffner described this particular survey is considered a baseline, if issued repeatedly over a number of years, it could help explain to policymakers the way people are thinking about water over time.
“Municipal leaders want to know what their constituents think. The cities that I’ve all talked to want more info from their citizens. They’re hungry for it,” Haeffner said.
And researchers on the iUTAH project are eager to bring their findings to the public, Haeffner said.
“[In] academia, we can try harder as scientists to bring our data back to the residents who offered their time to tell us what they think,” she said.
Haeffner added that researchers are not in a position to tell cities what they should or should not do about water issues, but surveys such as this help gather information needed to address continuing growth along the Wasatch Front.
“We know we live in a desert,” Haeffner said. “We know the population is growing. We know we’re growing; what we don’t know is what should we do about it. What are the options?”
To learn more about the iUTAH household surveys, visit www.iutahepscor.org/hhsurvey.