An Iowa State University survey of thousands of Iowans about how we use our state’s waterways finds about half of us visit rivers and streams at least once a year. Cathy Kling, an economics professor and head of I.S.U.’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, says the poll provides a snapshot of how Iowa’s 73 main waterways are used and what the people see as the most important attributes.
“They uses these rivers and streams for lots of activities related to relaxation, fishing, lots of activities along the sides, trails, wildlife viewing, so a pretty broad cross section,” Kling says. “We also found that the heaviest use was by young adults.” She says the study found most frequent river users had a higher than normal education and a higher income level.
While about half of the respondents said they visited rivers and streams at least once a year, Kling says many made much more frequent visits. “The average number of trips that they reported was around six per person,” Kling says. “That’s really a lot of usage. People are getting out and enjoying these rivers and streams quite often.”
The most-visited rivers and streams included segments of the Mississippi, Des Moines and Cedar rivers, as well as portions of the Missouri, Iowa and Wapsipinicon. Other findings include: men reported more visits than women, and the single most important consideration in selecting a river to visit was proximity to the home, with water quality and habitat being the second most important factor. The factors most cited as having a negative influence over respondents’ decisions to visit rivers and streams were related to water quality issues. Kling explains the motivation behind the survey.
“Our goal is to inform the public policy discussion and decisions about how we use our natural resources in the state as well as how we use our financial resources,” Kling says. “The state only has so much funds to direct towards restoring rivers and streams or other public services, and having a better knowledge base of how people use these, what areas they visit, should help inform those decisions.”
Nearly 4,800 Iowans responded to the survey mailing of 10,000, first sent in November 2009 and followed up with reminder mailings. Funding for the study came from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
See the full survey at: www.card.iastate.edu/environment/nonmarket_valuation/iowa_rivers