The Risky Business of Water Resources Management: Assessment of the Public’s Risk Perception of Oregon’s Water Resources

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The premise of this study was to assess the Oregon public’s risk perception concerning Oregon’s water resources. The state has a long-held reputation of having an overabundance of water; however, water shortages, droughts, and impaired water bodies throughout reveal this is not an accurate perception. Climate change models and population growth are projected to exacerbate Oregon’s water situation. A 2010 survey questionnaire was distributed to 1,563 randomly selected Oregon households to elicit the risk perception of ten water-related activities. With a response rate of 51%, the study found the public perceived agricultural and forestry practices as the two greatest risks and private wells as the lowest risk activity. A Risk Perception index found on average the public view the state’s water resources at a moderate risk. These findings can assist water resource managers throughout the Western United States as they develop and implement management strategies in response to climate change.