NO WORRIES: DECISION-MAKER AND PUBLIC ATTITUDES ABOUT WATER IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA
Despite little concern, 82% of the public agreed that conservation is important. Yet, only 19% of decision-makers reported implementing conservation programs beyond state mandated drought response. Among the public, 64% agreed that community growth should be limited to manage water scarcity, yet decision-makers did not express concern that growth would negatively impact water availability.
When asked if the water available to their community had changed in the past decade, about half of the public but only 24% of decision makers said they did not know. Decision-makers were more likely to say that there had been no change. When asked to forecast water availability 10 years hence, 29% of decision-makers and 50% of the public said there would be less water while 26% of decision-makers and 11% of the public said there would be more water. Interestingly, both groups were less likely to say that they did not know what the future holds compared to their responses about past changes. Among decision-makers who indicated that there would be more water in the future, their communities either have or are seeking a new supply source. Their perception of “available water” is largely unrelated to the physical hydrology, but rather reflects their legal and infrastructure situation.
These results have implications for when and how relevant physical data is integrated into water management decisions. Without a sense of concern, neither the public nor the decision-makers are likely to pursue water quantity data. Although the public see a future with less water, this has not generated significant concern, perhaps because in such a humid climate, less is still abundant. As long as decision-makers believe that they can tap a new supply, there is no need for concern nor for water data.