Putting Science Into Action: From Washington State Community-based Outreach To National Programming In Washington DC
Associate Professor, Washington State University
Each time you pick up a newspaper, issues surrounding the availability, distribution and use of water are highlighted, often headlined. From explosive regional conflicts between urban demands and rural control, to the needs of endangered species versus traditional irrigated agriculture, to small town America’s mining of groundwater supplies, U.S. citizens are regularly reminded that the nation’s water supply is not limitless.
Globally, freshwater demands have tripled since 1950, while water supplies remain fixed. Demand is expected to double by 2035, leaving 48 percent of the world’s population (2.4 to 3.4 billion people) living in water-stressed environments by 2025 (Pereira et al. 2002). Securing water to meet this growing demand has involved the improvement and construction of storage facilities and greater reliance on groundwater resources—both unsustainable over the long-term. Continued rapid growth of domestic and industrial water uses, growing recognition of the environmental demands for water, and the high cost of developing new water resources threaten the availability of irrigation water to meet growing food demands. A crucial question in the U.S. is whether water availability for irrigation—together with feasible production growth in rainfed areas—will provide enough food to meet growing demands and ultimately improve national and global food security. Simply put, do we continue to grow our own food?
“The use to which we, as a society, put our water will come under increasing scrutiny and intensifying management as we move in to the 21st century. We will have to stretch our understanding, and apply our wisdom ever more creatively if our aspirations for the growth and development of our society are not to be constrained as a result of limited water resources.” (South Africa’s Water Policy quoted in NCSE 2004).
The World Water Council World Water Vision Commission Report (World Water Council 1998) suggested two approaches to water resource sustainability (i.e., bringing water supplies in line with demand): 1) improve technologies to provide “new” sources of freshwater such as desalination and/or inter-basin transfers—both fraught with environmental consequences and technical limits (Glennon 2005), and 2) provide greater efficiencies in water management and conservation. Both will be required to help provide equitable water distribution among all demands. In the U.S., the National Council for Science and the Environment (2004) developed nine major recommendations to enhance sustainability of global water resources. These recommendations promote developing new technologies for sustainable water management, closing the gap between science and policy in water resources, and integrating social and natural science efforts on sustainable water resources management.
The recommendations also highlight the need for education and outreach for sustainable water management. Education needs to extend to all levels (K-12 and post secondary) and include
improved communication between the science community, the public, and decision makers. Both reports emphasize behavioral change towards water uses, and adoption of new and existing conservation technologies as a means to solving current and future water demands. “Water conservation and efficiency are the greatest untapped sources of water in this nation – cheaper, cleaner, and more politically acceptable than any other alternative” (Gleick 2003). Protection and improvement of water resources through technology adoption and behavioral change often require efforts of outreach educators that go well beyond being purveyors of knowledge.
This paper focuses on the changing philosophy of outreach education in water resources science and management expanding from knowledge delivery towards greater behavior change and adoption—the result of outcome-based logic modeling pervasive throughout U.S. government agencies and the land-grant university based Cooperative Extension Service (CES). To promote these expanded outreach efforts, we need to acknowledge existing knowledge gaps regarding (Rosengrant et al., 2002):
The effects of shifting regional water use patterns on communities and ecosystems and uncertainty about the impacts on water supply from improved land treatment and ecosystem management;
Identification of appropriate incentives such as agricultural water pricing reform that protects farmers against capricious changes in water allocation, ensures that they benefit from water conservation efforts, and provides a basis for water trading among farmers and across sectors;
The ineffective and protracted dissemination of research to the farm;
Unknown decision-making processes and a general lack of integrated decision support systems that plague appropriate water use at the farm level
In response to the need for greater research, education and outreach, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (USDA CSREES) launched an initiative in 2004 entitled Agricultural Water Logic Model courtesy of McMaster University Health Sciences Library, Ontario, Canada (Dobrowolski and O’Neill, 2005). Agricultural water security maximizes the efficiency of water use by farmers, ranchers, rural and urbanizing communities, thus ensuring that water volumes are allocated for per capita domestic water consumption, ecosystem services, recreation and aesthetics while meeting the needs of food and fiber production. It requires an economic and social context, with a goal of sustainable agriculture—high yields coupled with well-being and water efficient farming that retains water
volumes for ecosystem services and recreation. The initiative articulates agriculture in the urban environment through the linkage of urban farm-based irrigation and water reuse technologies. Part of the agricultural water security initiative focuses on the development of water saving practices typically at less cost and with far greater effectiveness than achieved by efforts to increase supplies. If engineering ingenuity is occasionally devoted to increasing water conservation, rather than focused on water supply augmentation, the returns could be extremely large. Some municipalities in the U.S. have found that $1 invested in watershed protection can save up to nearly $200 in new water treatment facilities (Johnson et al., 2001). The adoption of these new water saving technologies at the farm and householder level requires more than just “laying out the facts.”
Vast amounts of educational materials exist for improving water conservation and water management, though much of this information requires adaptation to local watershed conditions. Some of these outreach concepts that are in place or need adaptation to other communities include:
Outreach to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities towards adoption of greater use of recycled water and crop substitution;
Place-based education—eliminating sub-tropical lifestyles and the farming of low water efficient crops in desert climates
Educating water managers in both rural and urban communities, as impacts of water supply will be disproportionately felt by lower income families;
Educating landscapers in rural, urban, and urbanizing areas on the use of drought tolerant trees, shrubs, and turf, reduced turf and lawn areas, use of drip irrigation and reuse of irrigation water;
Educating residential pool designers on development of pools that serve the recreational need and minimize water losses;
Educating the public (adults) using adoption-outreach techniques to promote behavioral change in the way rural and urban households and farms use or think of water efficient plants and other xeriscaping, low water use fixtures and appliances, efficient irrigation devices, water conserving practices and impervious surfaces. Techniques may include public service ads, incorporation of water supply reports as part of local weather reports, or campaigns to adopt water conserving toilets and showers; and
Educating the public (youth) by incorporating water conservation into the basic curriculum and creating “waterwise” school programs (Dobrowolski and O’Neill, 2005).
Adoption-outreach, the effort to turn value free and socially-neutral water knowledge and technology into behavioral change, is a significant challenge for outreach educators today. Adoption-outreach requires an expansion of knowledge and behavior through several stages that include a lack of issue awareness or denial, through non-committal issue acceptance, critical reflection on the issue with careful planning of potential actions, visible attitude change, and finally sustained behavior change (Prochaska and Velicer, 1997). Adoption-outreach moves people towards changing behaviors by providing appropriate and necessary information to the audience or stakeholders. It also creates and implements a shared vision of the nature of the problem and helps stakeholders to recognize that the chosen solution is correct. Adoption-outreach builds a sense of community and individual entitlement towards the quality of water
resources. It reduces individual behaviors that prevent action, e.g., rationalizing destructive behaviors and denial, and it acknowledges the difficulty of implementation of practices.
Outreach educators must assist value-motivated citizens or politicians in deciding to what extent they make use of water conservation and use tools that have been generated by science and technology. Water concepts and methodologies developed by scientists cannot be viewed as “a siren’s song,” as suggested by Zoebel (2002), complicating the choices that farmers, decision-makers and citizens must make about what is economical and what is the wise use of agricultural inputs and rural resources. Farmers are now using many of the detailed methods for measurement and analysis that reductionist science has developed, as they seek integrative and dynamic understanding of physical and biological processes in agriculture. Maximization of both yields and water use efficiency has less meaning for farmers—the overall farm capital and labor must be maximized, rather than any single input like water use.
The number of farms and farmers continue to decline—altering the time-honored rural audiences for cooperative extension and similar outreach programs. Larger farms, corporate farms and an expansion of the number of smaller farms close to urban markets must shift the traditional emphasis on rural communities and agriculture to a linked system of rural, urban, and urbanizing communities and activities that influence water availability for all uses (Stam and Dixon, 2002). Reluctance of farmers and householders to grasp these water conservation opportunities often relate to relative input costs such as inexpensive or “free” water for both farm and urban users, urbanizing and rural landscape irrigation; conserved irrigation water that is difficult to lend, lease or sell leading to greater total consumption (Huffaker and Whittlesey, 2003); or the householder’s inability to see the need or the risk.
Key questions for CES outreach educators working with adoption-outreach include:
How does the CES effectively work to bring science to decision makers, producers and the public? And how does science benefit from the knowledge brought back from outreach professionals? It’s supposed to be a two-way street—but does it really work? What about the credibility of outreach professionals in the eyes of research scientists?
And the credibility of research scientists in terms of their knowledge of state and national needs?
Some insights are required to understand the effectiveness of the present outreach process to promote adoption and behavioral change. Often, we cannot understand why our scientific discoveries and new technologies are not implemented or addressed (to both on-the–ground and administrative decision makers). We feel very deeply that as scientifically trained outreach educators, if we just provide these people with the facts, they would do the right thing, there wouldn’t be a problem, we could have a rational discussion, and they would reach the right conclusion—and everything would be fine (Hallman, 2005). Defining the problem as an ‘educational deficit’ leads inexorably to the one true solution—we must be purveyors of knowledge and educate people. The concept of educational deficit is captured by the Education Deficit Model (EDM) and is really seductive to analytical people; given the same assumptions and data, there can be only be a restricted set of conclusions and actions. EDM deals with the formal contents of water knowledge and the methods and processes of water science and technology, but it neglects the context—institutional embedding, investment, organization and control (Wynne 1992). However, there exists abundant evidence from behavioral research that the correlation between knowledge and action rarely exceeds 0.20 (Hallman et al., 2004). New information is often twisted in ways to support existing beliefs, decisions, and actions; people know the ‘facts’ about smoking and continue to smoke, know that diet influences obesity and continue to be overweight. Marketing evidence shows little response to knowledge of the facts towards a purchase—when was the last time we were swayed by advertising or labeling (Wasink 2003, Hallman, 2005)?
A lack of knowledge is only one of several barriers limiting progress towards behavioral change (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000). Barriers to progress towards pro-social behavior can involve a lack of motivation, prerequisite knowledge and skills required for a specific action, little expectation of success or impact, habit or routine, nonexistent supporting attitudes and public policy, community norms that result in inconsistent behaviors in public versus in private, few mechanisms for social pressure or disapproval, missing or unknown economic incentives and inappropriate cultural models that block or inhibit the understanding of cause and effect among others. What alters people’s behaviors may be more closely tied to perceived risk rather than the information an outreach professional might provide. There are often large discrepancies between the risks experts worry about (e.g., a global water crisis) and those lay people are most concerned about. The perception of a given risk is amplified by what psychologists call "outrage factors," which can make people feel that even small risks are unacceptable (Hallman et al., 1995). People select risks to worry about according to the norms of their social situation rather than responding to more objective hazards (Sturgis and Allum, 2004). Perceptions of technological risks are related to certain types of world views or the holding of certain core beliefs and values (e.g., environmentalism).
Within these concepts there appears to be little relationship between perception of risk and the degree of understanding of water issues. It has been suggested that what is important to understanding water issues is not the ability to memorize a collection of facts, but an appreciation for the place water science and technology fits into one’s life experiences and the level of trust that can be placed on water experts and institutions (Jasonoff, 2000, Lewenstein,
2003). A stumbling block to a shared vision for water use in agriculture is that few Americans are close to agriculture or share a vision of the importance of water to food production. If they are asked to sacrifice certain lifestyle benefits (e.g., large and lush green lawnscapes, water features), they need to know the nature of the sacrifice, alternatives available, whether the sacrifice is equitable across the group of stakeholders, and whether there exists a belief that they can carry out and maintain the action. Rewards received for sacrificing must satisfy the individual, satisfy society’s needs, and be equitably distributed (Hallman, 2005).
To produce a water literate citizenry that can effectively participate in public debate about water, and hold government agencies accountable for national/regional/local program objectives and the implementation pace of water policy is a challenge to outreach professionals and scientists (Sturgis and Allum, 2004). We must develop a CES-led integrated program for adoption-outreach of water technologies – achieving true behavioral change among farmers, ranchers, and citizens, where the full value of water is appreciated, and the risks to water supplies from mismanagement, population growth and changing weather patterns are understood (O’Neill and Dobrowolski, 2005). It is important to recognize that multiple sources of directly relevant, problem-solving information are available to farmers, householders, and decision-makers.
If cooperative extension is to compete, our information must be easier to use, quickly implemented, unique, and trustworthy. Acceptance into the stakeholder “circle of trust” requires careful listening, transparency in our actions, and clarity in our statements. Outreach professionals will need to survive hard times—stakeholder criticism, repeated requests for explanation, and character tests towards building capital in credibility. Personal commitment to stakeholder issues and a significant time investment are necessitated. Time is required to understand and be sensitive to cultural and language differences. A torrent of information exists, particularly on the internet, and often stakeholders are overwhelmed and do not understand how to take action. Issues arise about the authenticity of the data and stakeholders often are confronted with source skepticism. Outreach educators can buffer attitudes and antagonism by good, honest, replicated science and outreach—with outcomes driving the process, i.e., logic model based.
Delivering water management technology and know-how from agriculture (e.g., irrigation technology, plant substitution and adaptation, water reuse) into the urban, urbanizing, and rural residential environment will require new outreach efforts that closely follow the model implemented by food science researchers and extension educators to counteract obesity. Results should help to provide water managers and policy makers with options and tools that lead to behavioral change and a reduction in social conflict. Our strategy for water availability research and education must involve the social aspects of water—human perceptions, behavior, and understanding; and our technologies should create new opportunities without creating new problems. Water availability problems that garner immediate attention are those that affect individuals or groups personally, where recognition and knowledge of the problem exists and how long the affect lingers. Making additional sources of water available by wastewater reuse is particularly vulnerable to public perception. “Found” water from wastewater reuse directly links water availability with human health, e.g., public concern over reuse water applied to school yards and parks. A sociological rather than technological toolkit would more appropriately integrate human reactions to water reclamation and reuse in project design.
Important action items for research, education, and extension that incorporate the social dimensions of agricultural water security include:
Design researchable metrics to evaluate adoption-outreach outcomes or performance-based measures of outcome,
Develop applied research or technology to overcome knowledge gaps that constrain adoption-outreach of water conservation and reuse,
Identify the socio-economic drivers of behavior change and how to evaluate the linearity and non-linearity of science and social feedback loops related to behavior change,
Elucidate the mismatches that exist between actual and perceived risk of water availability or water-borne hazards,
Consider two-stage funding, one stage for trust development, stakeholder and issue identification and refinement, the second for implementation and evaluation.
How do we begin to address these issues? First, research scientists must recognize the efficacy of a partnership with outreach professionals through targeted, integrated funding. Currently, USDA-CSREES funds several integrated programs in the National Integrated Water Quality Program to improve the quality of our Nation's surface water and groundwater resources through requiring integration of research, education, and extension activities (http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/fundview.cfm?fonum=1134). Concomitantly, outreach professionals and decision-making stakeholders need to provide feedback to scientists building powerful, responsive partnerships that are more effective with controversial issues. Partnership teams must focus on shaping solution-driven research and applications projects and their use of a balanced membership from the science/technology, outreach, development, and environmental protection communities.
Extension and research personnel need to be active, locally recognized and trusted. New delivery mechanisms and evaluation tools based on adoption-outreach need to be part of program outcomes. Opportunities must be continued and expanded to allow outreach professionals to bring a local perspective to national level programming and policy making that is issue-based or agency-focused, e.g., the Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement (IPA) Mobility Agreement. The purpose of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) mobility program is to allow temporary assignment of employees between federal agencies and state, local and Indian tribal governments, institutions of higher education and other eligible organizations. The IPA often is used to strengthen the management capabilities of federal agencies or other eligible organizations, assist the transfer and use of new technologies and approaches to solving governmental problems, facilitate an effective means of involving state and local officials in developing and implementing federal policies and programs, and provide program and developmental experience to enhance the IPA’s regular job performance. A 2005 IPA agreement between USDA-CSREES and James Dobrowolski resulted in significant progress towards implementation of the agriculture water security initiative.
We are attempting to implement adoption-outreach with farmers facing mandatory adoption of riparian buffer technology on high value agricultural land to help preserve stocks of endangered salmon. Within the same year and after each policy decision, farmers with high value crops on small acreages were expected to install buffers with widths of 3 m (local requirement), then 10 m
(local + federal requirement), followed by 65 m (after lawsuit against local authority) and now 0 m (decision appeal) with best management practices. An issue of this magnitude requires new and innovative tools. For example, the State of Washington adopted watershed analysis, structured a collaborative approach to developing a forest practices plan for a watershed based on a biological and physical inventory (Washington Forest Practices Board, 1997), and Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA, WDOE, 2003), administrative and planning boundaries, long before the US federal government claimed victory with watershed-level decision making.
This adoption-outreach effort is also targeted towards local residents and K-12 and college students. Beyond the development of traditional outreach educational materials such as written, visual and internet media for students, teachers, farmers, land management/regulatory staff and conservation groups, we focused our outreach activities to our broad clientele base in a manner that can be immediately used to make more informed decisions about farm management. A great deal of community input is required towards guiding project development, through numerous meetings with farmland owners, presentations to conservation groups and political officials, and meetings with local extension and education providers. Project credibility is further enhanced if clientele are given an opportunity to comment on the intent, scope and methods early in project implementation. Interactive web pages allowed viewers to send questions and comments directly to the science and outreach team. Trust was built by holding public field events before implementation and timed to correspond with important steps in the project to inform various clientele groups of the progress being made on the project, field reviews of the project by scientists and stakeholders, formal presentations to local decision makers, agricultural and environmental groups. It required 1.5 years to build the necessary trust and establish enough support to permit the project to go forward. Formal presentations were captured as streaming video and placed on our web site.
The research project provided opportunities across the K-12 through university continuum, in addition to train-the-trainer programs for extension and government agency personnel. We promoted the use of the experimental buffers for K-12 education by local schools (with landowner permission), and spent time with students and teachers in class and in the field. Cooperative collections of curricular materials are in continual development for use by K-12 educators in aspects of riparian ecology, groundwater and surface hydrology, water quality, soil science, and natural resource economics.
A local community college partnered with the project to train students for project field sampling and to develop and pilot-test a college-level riparian ecology curriculum. The course consists of modules that can be arranged for various audiences with different knowledge bases. This will allow the curriculum to be used at the college level for degree seeking students, workforce upgrade courses for non-degree seeking students or as community based information workshops to non-profit organizations, restoration groups, landowner associations, etc. The curriculum is a combination of web-based instruction material, PowerPoint presentations, and laboratory and field exercises. The varied format permits use in traditional classroom education, distance education, and daylong workshops. Because riparian areas are some of the most disturbed ecosystems in North America and are receiving significant attention from scientists and restoration groups, faculty are committed to this partnership.
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