Social Indicators: a New Metric to Guide, Measure, and Accelerate Implementation of State-Level Nutrient Reduction Strategies

Author(s): Guzman, S.; Cossman, R.; Ingram, R.

Major barriers in water conservation are the development of effective strategies to improve the quality of freshwaters, and management of the current nutrient loads released by agricultural production. Decision makers require a set of technical, environmental, landscape, and social measurements to restore the quality of their watersheds. Social metrics contribute to the understanding of how individuals and communities perceive, and incorporate, nutrient management plans in their agricultural processes. They are also short term metrics in which change (i.e., delta) can be quantified quickly. Individual producers and users have a set of beliefs and attitudes that make them respond differently to a specific situation. In this project we refine social indicator metrics for agricultural and water management with an emphasis on nutrient reduction, promote an expansion of the existing Social Indicators Planning & Evaluation Systems/Social Indicators Data Management & Analysis Tool (SIPES/SIDMA) throughout the Mississippi Atchafalaya River Basin, and lay the groundwork for an active social indicators users community among policy researchers and regulatory agencies. The overall goals of this project include 1) identifying social science experts and potential users of social indicators in the existing Hypoxia Task Force (HTF) states to build the foundation for establishing a community of practice at the state-wide and Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB)-wide scales, 2) incorporate a fully developed suite of social indicators that are tested, standardized and, most importantly, can be compared across watersheds and at varying spatial scales through the expansion of SIDMA, and 3) expand the use of social indicators to guide, and accelerate implementation of state-level nutrient reduction strategies. Social indicators provide consistent measures of social change and can be used by planners and managers to assess change in attitudes towards the implementation of water conservation practices. Social indicators can also accelerate the effective implementation of nutrient reduction strategies.

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