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What matters most? Stakeholders’ perceptions of river water quality

Murat Okumah, Ata Senior Yeboah and Sylvester Kwaku Bonyah

Land Use Policy, 2020, vol. 99, issue C

Abstract: The need to integrate stakeholders’ views into environmental policy is increasingly gaining attention because this offers the opportunity to design sustainable and synergistic environmental strategies. Understanding and integrating the views of resource users into policy design and implementation could help address the most important challenges, gain community support, enhance project ownership, and avoid policies being rejected by local people. As a result, research in environmental management has focussed on stakeholders’ perceptions of river water quality and how to integrate such views into policy. While existing studies offer insights into the different ways in which stakeholders evaluate river water quality and potential factors influencing judgements, they appear to be limited in a number of ways. First, most of these studies focus on developed countries and may have limited contextual relevance to the developing world. Moreover, past studies focus on segments of society such as farmers and mainly on wastewater for agriculture. These shortcomings may limit our understanding of the topic and our ability to design effective policies to address water quality problems. Drawing on survey data from the Wenchi municipality in Ghana, we examine public perceptions of what constitute important measures of river water quality as well as factors influencing such judgements. Results suggest that while variables such as taste, colour, smell and litter are important, the presence of faecal matter in and/or around the river was rated the most important measure of river water quality while depth of river was the least important. Results further suggest that education, age, number of years a person had lived in a community, depth of river and the presence of aquatic vegetation influence water quality judgements. The findings of this research provide insights into what policymakers and regulators need to consider when attempting to influence behaviours in relation to water resources. We note, however, that while public perceptions of river water quality could guide water management policies, scientific measurements of water quality must not be replaced with stakeholder perceptions. This is because aspects such as ecological integrity may not be important to segments of the public but are an important aspect of water management. This is reinforced in the present study as there seems to be a lack of concern among the participants regarding river depth – an important factor for habitat provision and pollution dilution.

Keywords: Organoleptic properties; Quality perception; River pollution; Water quality indicators; Ghana; Wenchi municipality (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.104824

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