To reduce nutrient pollution in our waterways and restore impaired watersheds, we need residents to voluntarily practice a range of stormwater best management practices (BMPs), including reducing fertilizer use, disconnecting gutters, and installing rain barrels. However, we still know very little of the underlying social factors that may act as barriers to BMP implementation. Some residents contend with numerous socio-ecological disamenities that can affect their knowledge and perceptions of watersheds, stormwater management, and specific BMPs. Furthermore, residents often indicate concerns with BMPs, such as risks of increasing mosquito populations that can carry diseases. The overall goal of this study was to better understand barriers to BMP implementation by exploring the links among resident demographics, knowledge, and behaviors so that appropriate education can be more effectively developed and targeted. In 2014-2015, a detailed questionnaire was administered door-to-door to 300 randomly selected households in two Chesapeake Bay sub-watersheds to test relationships among demographics, resident knowledge and attitudes towards water resources and BMPs, and BMP implementation, as well as to identify specific concerns with BMPs.
In multifactor regression models, which controlled for the effects of other key predictors, respondents that had higher knowledge (and more favorable attitudes towards BMPs) lived in households that implemented greater numbers of BMPs. In turn, BMP knowledge strongly varied with race and ownership status, with respondents that identified as Caucasian and home owners having higher BMP knowledge than respondents identifying as African American and home renters, respectively. These results suggest that resident knowledge is important to determining the number of household BMPs, and that education outreach should probably target African American and renting households that have lower baseline BMP knowledge. The survey also confirmed prior research that an overwhelming majority of respondents (78.5%, 233/297 of households) were concerned of mosquito breeding in stormwater structures. Furthermore, resident mosquito concern was negatively related to the implementation of disconnected downspouts, the second most common BMP that we recorded (35.8%, 107/299 of households) in our study after reducing fertilizer. These results suggest that in addition to knowledge and attitudes towards BMPs, resident concern of mosquitoes may be an important barrier to the implementation of BMPs.