Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Seekamp, Erin

Abstract

Water quality is a substantial issue in rural and urban areas in the Midwestern United States. Water resources, such as streams, are often impaired by pollution. This can pose a threat to the natural ecosystem and the health of those that live within it. In the Lower Kaskaskia River region, Illinois communities are faced with impaired water resources. In order to effectively manage for healthy waterways, communities must have skills and resources to address threats to water quality. This study assessed capacity for effective watershed management in four communities within the Lower Kaskaskia River region. Each community exists within a subwatershed of the Lower Kaskaskia River Watershed. A stratified, random sample of 3,609 residents living within the four watersheds was taken to gather data on several community capacity indicators for each watershed community. A questionnaire was distributed to individuals living within the study area to measure dimensions of community capacity and familiarity with water conservation practices. With data from the questionnaire, it was possible to measure collective action, community empowerment, and shared vision for each of the communities within the study area. Exploratory factor analysis yielded outcomes that differed from theoretical literature on the topic. A stepwise regression analysis illustrated the importance of community empowerment in explaining the greatest amount of variability (39%) in community capacity. Once reliable measures of community capacity were established, it was possible to examine them across urban and rural areas. A multivariate analysis showed no significant difference between urban and rural community type in regards to levels of community empowerment, collective action, shared vision, and community capacity. Measurements of community capacity were not significantly different at á = 0.05 across urban and rural communities; however, practical differences between urban and rural communities were identified. Understanding practical differences in community capacity between different community types will assist in the development of outreach and education techniques that are relevant for both urban and rural communities that exist within the study area. Outreach and education strategies will allow for the implementation of effective natural resource management within the study communities, while informing citizens and leaders on watershed conservation practices that can be implemented at the individual and community levels.

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