Research Catalyst Grantee



Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson

Weber State University


Project Title

Understanding public attitudes toward water shortages and water pricing in Utah



This proposal will support collection of social science data to address geographic variation in public attitudes toward water issues in Utah. We will address two key research questions: (1) how concerned are Utah residents about water shortages and water prices; and (2) do concerns about water vary by community characteristics. The research is guided by the hypothesis that concerns about the availability and cost of water are shaped by the biophysical, infrastructural, and policy environments across different Utah communities. Researchers at five universities (Southern Utah University, Utah State University, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, and Weber State University) will collaborate to engage college students in social science data collection in the spring and summer of 2015. Students will use iPads and a standardized public intercept methodology to collect data on public attitudes across a wide range of Utah communities. The team will also gather information about the biophysical, infrastructural, and policy contexts for communities from which survey data were gathered, and will use multivariate statistical analyses to determine how contextual variables and individual respondent characteristics are associated with levels of concern about water supplies and prices.


The project will also gather systematic data using an online version of the survey sent to faculty, staff, and students on the participating campuses. These data will help explore whether attitudes towards water differ across university campuses in the state, and also whether university students and staff have views that differ from those of the general public in their host communities.


The proposal requests funding from the iUTAH Research Catalyst Grant (RCG) program for three new faculty investigators: Gary Johnson (lead PI and a political science professor at Weber State University), Britt Mace and Andrew Van Alstyne (faculty in psychology and sociology, respectively, at Southern Utah University), and Jay DeSart (a political scientist at Utah Valley University). These investigators will collaborate with Douglas Jackson-Smith (a sociologist at Utah State University who is a co-PI on the iUTAH project) and Sara Yeo (a communication science faculty member at the University of Utah who recently joined the iUTAH project).


The results of this project will provide a foundation for an expanded study of the linkages between physical water supply, water utility pricing, and residential water use at the community level across Utah. We have identified several possible funding sources to support future expansion of this research effort.



Britt Mace, Southern Utah University
Andrew Van Alstyne, Southern Utah University
Jay DeSart, Utah Valley University
Douglas Jackson-Smith, Utah State University

Sara Yeo, The University of Utah