National study examines psychology of water use

National study examines psychology of water use

Six University of Nebraska—Lincoln researchers will join colleagues at Penn State University, Arizona State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service to develop a model for engaging communities and stakeholders to ensure adequate supplies of good-quality water both for and from agriculture.

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded $2.2 million to 18 researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Penn State University, Arizona State University and USDA/ARS. This monetary value will cover the first year of the four-year, $5 million project.

“The project’s main goal is to promote sustainable water management through the use of a proven, flexible and transferable model of engagement of farmers and other stakeholders,” said Chittaranjan Ray, director of the Nebraska Water Center, within the University of Nebraska’s Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute.

Case study locations in Nebraska, Arizona and Pennsylvania represent different types of water issues and various institutional settings.

“Development of the stakeholder engagement model will involve testing how what we know, how we behave and how our institutional partnerships, collective norms and other factors affect the way we address increasingly complex water issues faced by farmers and water resource managers at the local level,” said Mark Burbach, environmental scientist at the School of Natural Resources.

Joining Burbach and Ray in the study are Lilyan Fulginiti and Richard Perrin, professors of agricultural economics; Jessica Groskopf, associate extension educator; and Daran Rudnick, assistant professor of biological systems engineering.

The full research group includes nine researchers from Penn State University, including the project’s leader, rural sociologist Kathryn Brasier; two from Arizona State University and one from USDA/ARS.

“Part of the viability of this project comes from the depth and diversity of the cooperating researchers from three separate regions of the country,” Ray said.

The project will develop a model for stakeholder engagement that transforms the way scientists, extension educators, government officials and others combine their knowledge, communication and engagement skills. This allows the researchers to effectively reach out to water users who have their own knowledge base, perceptions and societal influences on how and why they use water in their agricultural operations.

“The project will help us better understand how farmers and other water users get information and make decisions about water usage in agriculture,” Burbach said.

Researchers will conduct the project in parts of Nebraska, Arizona and Pennsylvania and will also consult with partners in Israel and Australia to learn about their engagement and assessment work. The collected data will be used to help create a transferable engagement model that can be used internationally.