Nav: Home

Political leaning influences city water policies as strongly as climate

June 19, 2018

Urban water conservation policies are reflecting the nation's political polarization, with a new report demonstrating that a city's water ordinances can be as much related to whether it leans left or right as to whether the climate is wet or dry.

Vanderbilt University environmental researchers found Los Angeles ranks No. 1 for number and strength of policies, followed by six other left-leaning California cities along with Austin, Texas. It takes until San Antonio, Texas, at No. 8 to find a right-leaning city with strong water conservation policies--probably because the amount of water it can withdraw from the Edwards Aquifer is strictly limited, said the study's lead author, Jonathan Gilligan, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

"We were surprised by this finding. We had expected that water conservation would be a more neutral issue and less polarizing," said Gilligan, who is also an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. "As populations continues to grow and demands on water supplies increase, this information will be important for planning."

For instance, less prosperous or more conservative cities may consider rebates to entice homeowners to install low-flow toilets and shower heads instead of requiring them, the team found.

"There's plenty of water if we don't waste it, and building aqueducts, pumps, desalination systems--all of those are huge, expensive, energy-intensive things," Gilligan said. "Water conservation is one of the best ways to make use of limited water supplies."

Their results were published online this month in the journal Earth's Future and will appear in a future print edition.

The team examined city water policies over the course of four years to create a database of water conservation policies. They also developed an associated index of the number of different categories of policies each city adopted and gathered data on the climate, water sources, population, economy and political leanings of each city and its surrounding metropolitan statistical area--as reflected in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

They created an interactive map where users can check to see where their own cities rank.

Here are the top 20 listed by number of water policies. Only three lean Republican, indicated in parentheses:
    1. Los Angeles, CA

    2. San Diego, CA

    3. Santa Rosa, CA

    4. Oxnard, CA

    5. San Jose, CA

    5. Santa Cruz, CA

    7. Austin, TX

    8. San Antonio, TX (R)

    9. Albuquerque, NM

    9. Riverside, CA (R)

    11. Fresno, CA (R)

    12. Denver, CO

    13. San Francisco, CA

    14. Las Vegas, NV

    14. Salinas, CA

    16. El Paso, TX

    16. Miami, FL

    18. Fort Collins, CO

    18. Stockton, CA

    20. New York, NY

    20. Salt Lake City, UT

    20. Tampa, FL

    20. Vallejo, CA

They also compiled a list of cities whose conservation policies were much stronger or weaker than anticipated based on a statistical analysis of their politics, climate and economy. The table below ranks cities based on how far they were from expectations and then lists in parentheses whether they lean more Democratic or Republican than the national average, their rank for number of water conservation policies and their expected rank.)
    1. San Antonio, TX (R, No. 8, expected No. 32)

    2. McAllen, TX (D, No. 90, expected No. 29)

    3. Oxnard, CA (D, No. 4, expected No. 18)

    4. Austin, TX (D, No. 7, expected No. 23)

    5. Santa Maria, CA (D, No. 49, expected No. 14)

    6. San Diego, CA (D, No. 2, expected No. 7)

    7. Santa Rosa, CA (D, No. 3, expected No. 10)

    8. College Station, TX (R, No. 29, expected No. 76)

    9. Phoenix, AZ (R, No. 57, expected No. 24)

    10. Houston, TX (R, No. 71, expected No. 31)

###
Other authors on the study were graduate students Christopher A. Wold, Scott C. Worland and John J. Nay, all of whom were affiliated with the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment during the research; David J. Hess, professor of sociology and James Thornton Fant Professor of Sustainability Studies; and George M. Hornberger, University Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Environmental Sciences, Craig E. Philip Professor of Engineering and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation grant EAR-1416964.

p>

Vanderbilt University

Related Climate Articles:

Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Incubating climate change
A group of James Cook University scientists led by Emeritus Professor Ross Alford has designed and built an inexpensive incubator that could boost research into how animals and plants will be affected by climate change.
And the Oscar goes to ... climate change
New research finds that Tweets and Google searches about climate change set new record highs after Leonardo DiCaprio's Academy Awards acceptance speech, suggesting celebrity advocacy for social issues on a big stage can motivate popular engagement.
Cod and climate
Researchers use the North Atlantic Oscillation as a predictive tool for managing an iconic fishery.
What hibernating toads tell us about climate
The ability to predict when toads come out of hibernation in southern Canada could provide valuable insights into the future effects of climate change on a range of animals and plants.
Maryland climate and health report identifies state's vulnerabilities to climate change
A new report by the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene details the impacts of climate change on the health of Marylanders now and in the future.

Related Climate Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".