Abstract

Popular concern over water quality has important implications for public water management because it can both empower water utilities to improve service but also limit their ability to make changes. In the desert city of Phoenix, Arizona, obtaining sufficient high-quality water resources for a growing urban population poses a major challenge. Decision makers and urban hydrologists are aware of these challenges to water sustainability but the range of acceptable policy and management options available to them is constrained by public opinion. Therefore, this study examines cultural models of water quality and water management, termed ethnohydrology, among urban residents. The study yields three key findings. First, urban residents appear to have a shared model of ethnohydrology which holds that a) there are significant water quality risks associated with low financial investments in city-wide water treatment and the desert location of Phoenix, and b) government monitoring and management combined with household-level water treatment can yield water of an acceptable quality. Second, people with high incomes are more likely to engage in expensive water filtration activities and to agree with the cultural ethnohydrology model found. Third, people living in communities that are highly concerned about water quality are less likely to share high agreement around ethnohydrology. The results have implications for water policy making and planning, particularly in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities where water quality is perceived to be low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEcology and Society
Volume15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Fingerprint

water management
desert
water quality
water treatment
water
water yield
urban population
policy making
water resource
sustainability
income
city
water quality management
monitoring

Keywords

  • Cultural consensus
  • Cultural model
  • Freelist
  • Perceptions
  • Phoenix
  • Urban
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Urban ethnohydrology : Cultural knowledge of water quality and water management in a desert city. / Gartin, Meredith; Crona, Beatrice; Wutich, Amber; Westerhoff, Paul.

In: Ecology and Society, Vol. 15, No. 4, 12.2010.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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