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Group Dynamics and Resource Availability of a Long-Term Volunteer Water-Monitoring Program

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Alabama Water Watch is a statewide, citizen volunteer water quality monitoring program with participation of 235 groups over a 14-year period (1993-2006). A variety of social and geographical resources strongly influenced the distribution, characteristics, and longevity of groups. Group location and sampling effort in each of 67 counties had significant correlation with population, income, and education. Water-monitoring groups were concentrated in the northeast quadrant of the state (where 60% of lake acreage occurs) and in the coastal southwest region, with virtually no groups in areas of persistent poverty. Though it has been demonstrated that volunteer water-monitoring programs can collect scientifically valid data that make significant contributions to natural resource management, such programs favor well-organized and educated groups with discretionary time and wealth. Different approaches are needed to make inroads into resource-limited areas, such as alternative environmental awareness programs, and partnerships with organizations that focus on community development and livelihoods.

Keywords: Alabama; community groups; resource availability; volunteer water monitoring

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA 2: Department of Forestry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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