Western North Carolina is water rich, with high annual rainfall and historically low population. Therefore, water management has traditionally not been a significant policy issue. Recent droughts and high population growth, however, have stressed many water supply systems. To deal effectively with these stresses, new policies and management practices have been initiated, prompted by both state mandates and local pressure. As pressures are likely to continue, there is a need to understand what motivates policy development and what processes decision makers use when creating water management policies and programs. Previous research finds that decision makers are apt to base decisions on perceptions, personal beliefs and historical practice rather than on relevant water data. In this study, survey results are used to understand how decision-maker perceptions about water availability, growth, and environmental concerns correlate with water allocation and conservation policies. Results indicate that respondents are only moderately concerned about water availability and drought is the primary concern, rather than population growth. Few of these decision makers have implemented water education programs, but many have implemented drought-related conservation programs. Environmental concerns related to water management are quite low among all respondents.
Environmental Practice 16: 94–101 (2014)