Evaluation 2017: From Learning to Action

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Integrating Environmental and Social Data to Improve Water Quality: Learning from Large-scale Evaluations in Minnesota and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Session Number: 2743
Track: Environmental Program Evaluation
Session Type: Panel
Tags: Agriculture, Environment program evaluation, Mixed-Methods Evaluation, Survey Research, Water quality
Session Chair: Marcie Weinandt [Mn Ag Water Quality Certification Program Coor. - Minnesota Department of Agriculture]
Discussant: Annamarie Lopata [Senior Evaluation Officer - National Fish and Wildlife Foundation]
Presenter 1: Karlyn Eckman [Senior Research Associate - College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences]
Presenter 2: Marcie Weinandt [Mn Ag Water Quality Certification Program Coor. - Minnesota Department of Agriculture]
Presenter 3: Heather Dantzker [Owner and Principal - Dantzker Consulting, LLC]
Presentation 1 Additional Author: Marcie Weinandt [Mn Ag Water Quality Certification Program Coor. - Minnesota Department of Agriculture]
Presentation 2 Additional Author: Karlyn Eckman [Senior Research Associate - College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences]
Presentation 3 Additional Author: Annamarie Lopata [Senior Evaluation Officer - National Fish and Wildlife Foundation]
Presentation 3 Additional Author: Kristin Ward [Partner - Clarus Research]
Presentation 3 Additional Author: Jane Yoo [Clarus Research]
Time: Nov 10, 2017 (01:45 PM - 03:15 PM)
Room: Wilson A

Abstract 1 Title: Muddy Waters: Peering into the Human Dimensions of Water Quality

Presentation Abstract 1:

The 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) is a legal framework for regulating the discharge of pollutants and water quality standard for surface water in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and individual states fund programs and monitor water quality according to biophysical standards (specific pollutant loads and other metrics). While biophysical monitoring is widespread and quite standardized, the social drivers that affect the outcomes of water pollution are generally unmonitored and not widely evaluated. Water quality problems have a human origin or cause and are avoidable. We explore the history and effectiveness of evaluation efforts on the social dimensions of water quality programs and projects in the United States. We examine various social evaluation methods, including those used with the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, identify gaps and needs in evaluation and make recommendations for improving evaluation and program outcomes in the context of water quality improvement.

Abstract 2 Title: Environmental and Social Evaluation of Agricultural Practices and Producers in Response to Multiple Audiences
Presentation Abstract 2:

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that supports adoption of conservation practices. The program uses a process of identifying agricultural risks to Minnesota’s water quality. Farmers who treat all risks to water quality on their operation are certified and deemed compliant with any new water quality rules for 10 years. Certification gives farmers greater certainty about regulatory standards and assures the public that Minnesota’s farmers are doing their part to protect water quality. Multiple evaluation methods were developed at the inception of MAWQCP to triangulate expected project outcomes, including community Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice (KAP) surveys, MAWQCP advisory committee member interviews, post-certification producer survey as well as the biophysical reduction data from state agency partners.  This presentation explores how multiple evaluation methods addressing environmental, participatory and political factors reinforce program outcomes. 

Abstract 3 Title: Integrating Environmental and Social Data to Evaluate Water Quality Improvements in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Presentation Abstract 3:

The Chesapeake Bay is impaired due to decades of human impacts on the landscape. U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program has engaged the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to help accelerate local restoration actions and spur innovation in watershed restoration. Since 2009, NFWF’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction program (INSR) has funded a variety of Bay partners to address agricultural nutrient management and stormwater runoff, two of the most outstanding challenges to Bay restoration. The INSR program supports development and implementation of innovative approaches to nutrient and sediment reduction and supports information sharing across the watershed. A mix of environmental and social data was used to understand how both the implementation and dissemination of innovative practices has led to water quality improvements for the Bay. Evaluation results highlight a combination of demonstrable pollutant reductions together with measurable uptake of innovative practices and provide powerful evidence for future decisions and investments.

Theme: Learning to Enhance Evaluation
Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract (150 words): 

While regulatory instruments such as the federal Clean Water Act and state-level policies have helped to significantly improve the nation’s waterways for decades, social factors, such as human attitudes and behavior, continue to affect water quality outcomes both negatively and positively. Integrating environmental and social data can enhance evaluation of water quality efforts by helping to elucidate what works and what lessons can be learned from a wide array of water quality protection activities. In this panel, we will present a brief history of evaluating these efforts and case studies of large-scale water quality improvement efforts in Minnesota and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The panel discussion will provide evaluators with a look at the value and challenges posed by integrated evaluation approaches, highlighting lessons learned from Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) surveys and other survey approaches for better understanding water quality improvement practices.

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Cancellation Policy: Refunds less a $50 fee will be granted for requests received in writing prior to 11:59 PM EDT October 16, 2017. Email cancellation requests to registration@eval.org. Fax request to (202) 367-2173. All refunds are processed after the meeting. After October 16, 2017 all sales are final. For Evaluation 2017, international attendees and presenters who encounter complications due to the international travel environment will have up to 30 days after the event to request a refund and submit appropriate documentation. No administrative fee will apply for the international requests. The $50 fee will be waived for registrants who planned to travel into the US and experienced international travel issues.