Public Opinion on Environment and Water Quality Management in the New York City WatershedEPA Grant Number: R823466
Title: Public Opinion on Environment and Water Quality Management in the New York City Watershed
Investigators: Pfeffer, Max A. , Stycos, Mayone
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: May 1, 1995 through April 1, 1998
Project Amount: $371,317
RFA: Socio-Economics (1995) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice
This three year project focuses on environmental management in rural watersheds that supply NYC. It concentrates on public knowledge, attitudes and behavior toward the environment in a sample of households in upstate watershed communities and among NYC residents. If NYC cannot meet standards set by the l986 federal Safe Water Drinking Act Amendments, it will be required to construct the world's largest water filtration plant at an initial outlay of over $5 billion. To maintain the required level of environmental quality, NYC has proposed a filtration avoidance plan. This plan includes provisions for the implementation of more stringent land use and water quality regulations and substantial infrastructure investments in the watershed, all of which are intended to protect the quality of NYC drinking water for the foreseeable future. A recently negotiated agreement between NYC and the rural watershed towns establishes the framework for these efforts. Despite the heavy investments planned, social research on public support for these watershed planning efforts is almost entirely absent. This project is an attempt to fill this gap in part, by conducting a study of public opinion to discern the general public's knowledge, attitudes and behaviors regarding water quality and, more generally, environmental protection.
Knowledge and opinion are expected to differ markedly between NYC residents and upstate watershed residents. To evaluate such hypothesized differences, approximately 1,000 upstate NYC watershed residents and an equal number of NYC residents were randomly selected to be interviewed. To aid in the evaluation of the quantitative data, personal qualitative interviews are currently being completed with a sub-sample of respondents, representing a range of opinions on key issues. To enhance policy recommendations, an inter-community study group was set up to advise on questionnaire content and implications of the findings. In addition, focus group sessions in selected towns and neighborhoods will be carried out in the third year.