June 26, 2009

Watershed survey set in St. Clair, Madison counties

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Members of some 4,000 households in St. Clair and Madison counties could have a say in how officials manage community water resources by filling out a survey designed by researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“We’re interested in their perceptions of both the problems they face -- flooding, soil erosion, wildlife habitat, water quality, land-use regulations -- and what they think their assets are, what’s working,” said Mae A. Davenport, assistant professor of forestry in SIUC’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We hope our results will help public officials understand their communities better so they can improve community life and protect those water resources.”

The survey is part of the college’s Watershed Health Integrated Research project and receives funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It consists of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions and should take about 15 minutes to complete.

During the week of June 29th, randomly selected residents of the Lower Kaskaskia River Basin towns of Belleville, Freeburg, O’Fallon and Troy and those in nearby rural areas will receive a letter explaining the survey. The letter will include an access code and a Web address where they can complete the survey electronically.

Those without Internet access and those who don’t want to go online can wait until the following week when they will receive a paper copy of the survey, which includes a postage-paid return envelope.

Graduate students, identified by nametags and SIUC shirts, will deliver surveys to rural watershed residents in St. Clair County beginning July 8, returning for the completed questionnaires within 72 hours. Beginning Aug. 5, they will deliver and pick up surveys going to rural residents of a watershed that spans both St. Clair and Madison counties.

Once the researchers have analyzed the responses, they will present their findings in a series of workshops for both public officials and community residents. They also will create an interactive Web site and some exhibits that will travel to community events, libraries and schools.

For more information or to provide input, e-mail Davenport at WHIR@siu.edu or call 618/453-7463.