Date of this Version
2020 by the authors
Understanding and defining water quality is an important precursor for influencing pro-environmental behavior and accurately assessing potential outcomes of human–lake interactions. This study surveyed 82 lake-users in Nebraska regarding their definitions of water quality and the importance of various water quality features to determine if lake-users’ definitions align with complex and multi-faceted governmental and scientific definitions. Survey sites included two recreational reservoirs (e.g., boating and fishing), Holmes Lake (urban watershed) and Branched Oak Lake (agricultural watershed). The biological and chemical parameters are similar between the lakes and both lakes were listed as “impaired” on the Section 303(d) (United States Environmental Protection Agency,Washington, DC, USA) list of impaired waters of the US at the time of the surveys. The results of our survey suggest that the overwhelming majority of lake-users’ self-generated definitions of water quality did not include more than one feature of water quality found in the relevant policy and regulatory definitions and they focused primarily on water clarity. Further, when provided a list of specific water quality features, the participants rated all provided features of water quality as highly important. This suggests that the failure to include those features in a self-generated definition is not the consequence of perceiving that feature as low importance.