Monday, February 23, 2015

Water and the Florida Public

At IrriGator we invest considerable time and resources into communicating research-based information on water-use and water management. Rare, however, is the opportunity to gauge how the public is receiving and digesting these efforts. Enter the UF/IFAS PIE Center’s annual Public Opinion of Water in Florida survey.

The Center’s survey polled 749 Florida residents on a number of water-related topics. The ensuing report paints a helpful picture about what the public knows and doesn't know and where messaging and communication can be improved or adjusted.  A sample of these findings include: 

  • Water ranks 3rd, below health care and the economy, on a priority list of those surveyed
  • Few of those surveyed felt water quality was getting better in any of Florida's water bodies
  • 85% of those surveyed indicated they were likely/very likely to pay attention to a water news item
  • 72% of those surveyed are willing to pay more for their water bills if it would ensure adequate water resources for Florida's future

When the chips are down

"I think the public generally understands
 water conservation when they are affected by it. 
That is, when they don’t have enough water, 
the importance hits home. Those affected 
by the drought in California right now 
would be a good example."

In a recent interview for Landscape Management, Dr. Michael Dukes, director of the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, addresses some aspects of successful water communication. Namely, context counts. When water scarcity is a factor, the public is generally more receptive to messaging. And in drought circumstances conservation messaging tends to saturate the media. 

Knowing what we don't know about what you think you know about water: an infographic
Further, Dr. Dukes also notes how the development of a water efficient ethic within the Green Industry coincided with implementation of water conserving programs, devices and codes at both the manufacturing and agency levels. There are advantages to being able to communicate important information from a non-crisis position.

As someone whose work encompasses Extension and communication, the most useful gems among the Center’s survey results are Figure 33 and Figure 35. 

Extension? What's that? (courtesy: Public Opinions of Water in Florida)
For me, Fig. 33 (above) confirms the shortcomings of engaging the public by way of what are often understaffed, inadequately resourced and marginal channels throughout the state. On the other hand, Fig. 35 (below) is fraught with possibility, suggesting an accessible audience consuming content online - a multimedia platform today’s educators are well-versed in utilizing. 

See you on the interwebs (courtesy: Public Opinions of Water in Florida)
In a great article addressing the water survey, Jenny Adler of the UF Water Institute said it best: “We are given an incredible opportunity (which will also be a challenge) to share current water research and knowledge about water issues through these identified outlets.”

The PIE Center recently hosted a webinar on water issues and the implications for agriculture featuring Dr. Kati Migliaccio and Dr. Alexa Lamm. View the webinar here.

The PIE Center recently hosted a webinar featuring Dr. Michael Dukes addressing the landscape water use aspects of the survey. View the webinar here.

1 comment:

  1. Great Webinar! This is a good series - with an active audience!