Collection and Analysis of Socioeconomic Data in the Bear River Basin Watershed Study Area
Douglas Jackson-Smith - Department of of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology, College of Humanties, Arts, and Social Sciences, Utah State University
Most contentious water issues in the Bear River Basin are rooted in complex human land use behaviors. For example, the growing demands for water by new residential and recreational users have placed increasing pressure on traditional irrigated agricultural operations in the watershed. Similarly, changes within traditional land use categories can have dramatic impacts on water quality and water quantity throughout this region. These include apparent shifts from intensive irrigated cropland into less intensive irrigated pasture or unirrigated crop or conservation reserve program land uses, increases or decreases in animal stocking rates on public and private rangeland, and concentration of dairy and hog livestock numbers on larger operations.
As researchers at Utah State University initiate multidisciplinary studies in the Bear River basin, it is imperative to have accurate and detailed information about the underlying demographic and land use changes taking place. In coming years, these changes can be spatially referenced to documented changes in hydrologic flows and water quality in the basin. The goal of this project is to develop a scientifically valid database that can be used to analyze regional and local demographic and land use trends that have important implications for water resources in the proposed Bear River Laboratory Watershed. This database will serve as the foundation for a socioeconomic profile report describing recent changes and current conditions. It will also generate future research questions regarding links between socioeconomic trends and water supply and quality issues in the basin. Ideally, these questions will be addressed with natural science colleagues in multidisciplinary grant proposals developed next year.
This research will begin with a careful inventory of existing databases regarding human activities in the watershed. We will then develop new aggregate datasets to document county-level and basin-wide changes in the structure and performance of the agricultural sector, overall patterns of land cover, and the size and composition of population and housing stock. Geospatially-explicit data will also be collected regarding the location and type of: a) existing housing and new residential construction activities; b) key agricultural and recreational infrastructure; and c) key agricultural and rural land cover changes that reflect spatial shifts in the underlying human behaviors.