Informing Land use Planning in the Wappinger Creek Watershed
HDRU OUTREACH SERIES 11-3Informing Land-Use Planning in the Wappinger Creek Watershed Shorna Broussard Allred, Margaret Kurth, Carolyn Klocker, & Allison ChatrychanLand-Use and Water Quality Are Connected comprehensive plans and conducting environmentalWatershed is the term that is used to describe all of monitoring.the land that drains to a network of water bodies Outreach and Education Tools such as using tailored(Figure 1). Natural landscapes within watersheds, messages to reach stakeholder audiences andsuch as wetlands and forestland, slow, absorb, and holding educational workshops.filter water as it travels towardthese water bodies. Land-use Incorporating Social Contextchange can have a detrimental into Planningeffect on water quality because It is important to consider thenatural landscapes are replaced social context of a communityby hardened, paved surfaces when designing strategies thatsuch as parking lots and road- address land-use planning andways. As runoff from rain water quality issues. Policiestravels over hardened surfaces, and approaches that embraceit sweeps contaminants off local values and concerns arethe land and into water bodies, more likely to be accepted bydegrading water quality. This the public and can help foster“nonpoint source pollution”, is local partnerships in communityone of the most challenging watershed protection.threats to our water andenvironment today. Careful Figure 1. Illustration of a watershed Designing informed strategiesland-use planning by local governments is one of the requires an understanding of stakeholder attitudes,most important ways to protect watersheds from the perceptions, and motivations.potentially negative affects of land-use change. Informative ResearchThe Role of Local Government The Wappinger Creek Watershed is located inLocal land-use decisions are influenced both by the Dutchess County, NY and is one of the five majorcollective decisions of landowners and municipal tributaries to the lower Hudson River. Nonpointofficials. A variety of policy tools exist which source pollution reduction has become a priority inenable local governments to regulate local land-use the watershed as the impacts of increased populationactivities and balance development with the growth and land-use change have become evident.conservation of valuable natural resources. The 2000 Natural Resource Management Plan for the watershed recommends that current residentialThese tools include: development practices be changed to avoid water Regulatory and Authoritative Tools such as restricting quality degradation. A study was conducted in the development and passing local laws and ordinances. Spring and Summer of 2009 to help understand what types of water quality protection approaches will be Environmental Planning Tools such as including most acceptable in the watershed. A questionnaire sustainable land-use planning principles in was sent to 326 municipal officials and 1,422
landowners in the 13 municipalities of the Both respondent groups showed strong support for aWappinger Creek Watershed to inform outreach, variety of policy tools but their attitudes did differeducation, and policy making in the watershed. This for some of the tools (Figures 1, 2, and 3).factsheet reports on the results of the survey related Stakeholders find many types of policy toolsto the policy preferences of municipal officials and acceptable, including those that impose restrictions.landowners. The Wappinger Creek Watershed canact as an example for others that aim to balance Figure 2. Support for Environmental Planninggrowth with watershed protection. Policy Tools Municipal Official LandownerMunicipal Official and Constituent Attitudes andPolicy Tool Preferences Follow sustainable land-To learn about stakeholder policy preferences related use and developmentto water quality, municipal officials and landowners principles that includewere asked about their support for various policy planning for naturaltools that can be employed in the watershed. areas (open space)Figure 1. Support for Regulatory and Conduct environmentalAuthoritative Policy Tools monitoring including collection of data about Municipal Official Landowner water resources Require development proposals to take into Identify critical habitat account new pressures on for key plants and existing water, sewer, and animals drainage services 100 50 0 50 100 Restrict development in % Oppose % Support floodplains Carry out land Figure 3. Support for Outreach, Education, and restoration projects to Incentive Policy Tools improve quality of Municipal Official Landowner degraded areas Increase water-related Adopt local laws to outreach and education protect streamside to residents buffers, wetlands, floodplains, and groundwater Increase water-related outreach and education Use land acquisition to to municipal officials and protect natural areas decision-makers Pool local resources to hire a watershed officer Provide incentives to to oversee and monitor property owners for use watershed laws of practices that improve water quality 100 50 0 50 100 100 50 0 50 100 % Oppose % Support % Oppose % SupportGraphs on this page show strongly disagree and disagree (oppose) and agree andstrongly agree (support) responses. They do not show neutral and don’t knowresponses.
Attitudes about Water Resource Protection resulted in average responses that were close toBoth municipal official and landowners agreed that neutral (Figure 5). It should be noted that althoughthere are many possible benefits that can be protecting water resources does require tradeoffs,achieved by protecting water resources (Figure 4). respondents had stronger attitudes about theThey agreed that protection can help maintain the benefits.natural beauty and recreational value of waterbodies, provide healthy habitat, increase property Figure 5. Negative Consequences of Watervalues, prevent a rise in the cost of supplying and Resource Protectiontreating water, and ensure the availability of clean Municipal Officials Landownerswater. Landowners were more confident thanmunicipal officials about water resource protection Result in laws thatkeeping water treatment costs low. might infringe on property rightsFigure 4. Attitudes about Multiple Benefits of Result in increasedWater Resource Protection taxes Municipal Officials Landowners 1 2 3 4 5 Maintain natural beauty of water bodies Average Response and surrounding land Scale: 1=Strongly disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree *Statistically significant difference at the p<.05 level Provide healthy habitat to native wildlife and vegetation Who is Responsible for Water Resource Protection? Ensure the availability Landowners and municipal officials were also of clean water asked about their attitudes regarding the responsibility to protect water resources. Maintain recreational In separate questions, they were asked whether they value of water bodies agreed or disagree that: It is the responsibility of residents to protect Help reduce the water resources through the decisions they impact of flooding make about their property. It is the responsibility of the municipality to protect water resource through land-use laws. Increase property The responsibility to protect water resource values should be shared by municipal officials and Prevent the rise in the residents. cost of supplying and Many respondents agreed, to some extent, that the treating water responsibility to protect water resources should be shared by local government and residents 1 2 3 4 5 (municipal officials 78%; landowners 57%). Some Average Response landowners did express their opposition toScale: 1=Strongly disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree local governments utilizing land-use laws to*Statistically significant difference at the p<.05 level protect the watershed. Ten percent of landowners viewed watershed protection as their exclusiveIn addition to the multiple benefits of protecting responsibility while 7% of municipal officialswater resources, there are some potential negative viewed it as their exclusive responsibility. Onconsequences: increased taxes and laws that might average, municipal officials expressed significantlyinfringe on property rights. Responses by both more support for land-use laws and sharedstakeholder groups were highly dispersed (from responsibility to protect the watershed thanstrongly disagree to strongly agree) regarding the landowners, who showed the greatest preference forpotential consequences of protection efforts that responsibility in the hands of residents.
Adequacy of Land-Use Laws Designing Socially Acceptable Land-Use PoliciesMunicipal officials and landowners were asked to It is important that local governments develop aindicate their level of agreement regarding the strategy to protect their land and water from theadequacy of land-use laws in their municipalities. potentially negative and often irreversible impacts ofFor municipal officials, 45% disagreed or strongly land-use change and development. Strategies shoulddisagreed with the statement that there are adequate be tailored to the local context in terms of bothland-use laws. For landowners, 40% stated that they physical and social realities. Understanding the“don’t know” whether there were adequate land-use attitudes of stakeholders will help to shape thelaws, 32% agreed or strongly agreed with the strategy into one that is responsive to local needsadequacy, and 15% disagreed or strongly disagreed. and accepted by stakeholders. The benefits andLandowners may not be accepting of new land-use consequences of water resource protection should belaws if they believe the current ones are adequate. It weighed, the responsibility for protection balanced,is also apparent that landowners have low awareness and the attitudes and barriers which underlie decisionabout the laws that exist or what laws are needed to making understood. Based on the survey results inadequately protect water resources. the Wappinger Creek Watershed, municipal officials, outreach professionals, and managers shouldLoss of Natural Environment and Wildlife Habitat to consider:Development Capitalizing on landowner support for a varietyOn average, both landowners and municipal officials of policy tools. Municipal officials and land-agreed that loss of natural environments and wildlife owners agreed about restricting development inhabitat is a problem in the watershed (landowners floodplains and requiring development proposals80%; municipal officials 85%). This may indicate to take new pressures on the existing system intothat land-use policies are needed to protect habitat in account.the watershed from the negative impacts of Conducting water quality and watersheddevelopment. management outreach and education forDrinking Water is Closely Tied to the Watershed residents and municipal officials.While approximately 50% of landowners and 70% of Designing outreach messages that highlight themunicipal officials agreed or strongly agreed that the multiple benefits of water resource protection.quality of household drinking water in their Tradeoffs may be necessary to make watermunicipality is connected to the quality of the water quality protection a priority in the watershed.in the Wappinger Creek Watershed, others disagreed Making accessible information about local land-(landowners 18%; municipal officials 6%) or didn’t use laws as well as gaps in protection in order toknow (landowners 23%; municipal officials 13%). increase awareness about the adequacy of localDrinking water comes from either surface (streams, laws to protect water resources.rivers, or lakes) or groundwater sources (wells) andtravels over and through the land before coming out References Watershed graphic from http://prairierivers.org/rivers/rivers101/of a tap. It is important that landowners andmunicipal officials understand that the quality of the For more information on the Human Dimensions Researchwater and land in the watershed has a direct impact Unit (HDRU), our program area, and past publications,on the water in many households in the watershed. please visit: www.dnr.cornell.edu/hdru.Understanding the connection will make policies toprotect the watershed more likely to be accepted. TO CITE THIS REPORT: Broussard Allred, S., Kurth, M., Klocker, C. and A.What are the barriers to implementation? Chatrychan. 2011. Informing Land-Use Planning in theMunicipal officials were asked what barriers prevent Wappinger Creek Watershed. Cornell University Humanimplementation of policies to protect water resources Dimensions Research Unit (HDRU), HDRU Outreach Series Publication No. 11-3, January 2011.in the watershed. While no single barrier wasrevealed as most prevalent, those with the highestaverage response on a scale of 1 to 5 were cost of This project was funded in part by a grant from the Newimplementation (3.82), lack of coordination among York State Environmental Protection Fund through a Hudson River Estuary Program of the New York State Department ofmunicipalities (3.79), and local political realities that Environmental Conservation (DEC) (contract #303671)would make implementation of such policiesdifficult (3.69).