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Residents receive water survey

By Anna Oakes (

Article Published: Jun. 6, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 6, 2013

Appalachian State University researchers hope to study local views on water supply and use through a survey recently distributed to residents.

The survey, “Water Use in the Western North Carolina Mountains: What Do You Think?” was mailed to 3,000 local residents from ASU’s interdisciplinary studies program and Department of Economics.

Kristan Cockerill, an assistant professor in ASU’s University College, is the project coordinator for the survey, and economics professor Peter Groothuis is also involved in the project.

Cockerill — who serves on the town of Boone’s Water Use Committee — said the ASU-funded survey is for research purposes only and is not being conducted for any outside parties.

“This is the type of research I do,” she said. “Water quantity issues are under-studied. This is part of an attempt to increase our understanding of how people think about water.”

Although the High Country is a humid area, the region has experienced serious droughts over the past decade, Cockerill noted.

A private company provided a pool of randomly selected residents, she said. The survey asks questions related to household water conservation, including the use of efficient appliances, local water resources, concerns about water supply, water and community growth and water management.

An economics-related question asks survey respondents how they would vote on a hypothetical referendum on a one-time county tax increase for local water conservation and preservation improvements. Cockerill said different dollar amounts of hypothetical tax increases are listed among the surveys.

“It’s a standard economics approach ... a way to assess how people think about any entity,” she said. “We know that people vote with their pocketbooks — where people are willing to spend their money tells us a lot. The questions also have to be realistic.”

However, she noted, “to the best of my knowledge, no official entity is proposing to do this.”

Cockerill acknowledged that given the contentious opinions related to Boone’s planned water intake project and recent mentions of a county water supply, she expected some skepticism about the survey.

But a hot-button topic makes for a good research project, she said, and the results will be reported exactly as is — regardless of what the town or county wants to hear.

Cockerill said the results will be made publicly available and published in academic papers. She expects to have preliminary results from the survey by August.

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