Insights and Tips for Communicating Water Policy

In a new EDIS publication series, Communicating About Water in the Floridan Aquifer Region, there is much to be learned about how to adequately communicate water issues and water policy. All six parts give summaries about the findings of different studies on how stakeholders interact with water science, water issues, and each other. The authors do not aim to sway anyone toward one water issue or another. Instead, the publications provide insight into the knowledge bases, value patterns, and perspectives of key stakeholders regarding water science and water issues. There are also tips at the end of each publication that advise better ways of communicating nonpartisan water policy based on these insights.

A Summary of Six Parts, Six Studies

Water beliefs have many influences.

One may think divisive support on water policy would stem from a lack of education on one or both sides of an issue. This would not be the case according to Part 1 and 2 of this series. The two studies discussed in these publications found gaps in common knowledge about water facts, but overall, people of the Floridan region know more water science according to what is relevant to their life. More interestingly, people might accept a water fact to be true but will still hold belief to the contrary. This shows how factors other than water knowledge are at play when holding water beliefs. It is possible that the public only hold contrarian beliefs if they do not agree with the proposed interventions for the water issues.

Moral values and spokespersons may also influence belief more than knowledge alone. The study from Part 3 used near-identical sample proposals for a water issue intervention plan, only altering the moral messaging or political affiliation, to see how these factors may affect water support. Voting residents from the Floridan region more often changed their supportive stance when presented with a moral argument. When presented with another, yet opposing, moral argument, they reverted their support back to their original inclinations. Furthermore, voting residents would support or oppose a policy depending on if they supported or opposed, respectively, the political orientation of the policy’s spokesperson. Using these insights, the tips from this publication stress the importance of remaining bipartisan when creating and communicating water policy, as well as the benefits of involving professionals from all sides.

Bias can easily infiltrate a nonpartisan issue.

The fourth publication of this series supposes that the news media can be part of the bias problem. The news largely report on human-centric aspects of water issues rather than biocentric, thus generating very little engagement from biocentric people in such water issues. Also, more human-centric perspectives lend to more division on issues. The publication advises communicators to involve journalists during water policy formation and communication so they can rely less on human-centric reports outside this internal policy effort for their sources.

It becomes ever more important to find neutrality on water issues when many stakeholders are already at odds with each other. Part 5 and 6 studied this conflicting relationship more closely. While both stakeholders—producers and environmentalists—place high importance on the protection and conservation of freshwater sources, their opinions differ on who or what negatively affects these freshwater sources. Environmentalists focus on potential interventions as a whole while producers think of their current, personal implementations of water interventions in agriculture. This disagreement between groups has influenced negative perceptions of one another. It is important for water communicators to highlight the agreements rather than disagreements between groups when forming and communicating water policy.

Water on EDIS

The publications and corresponding studies of this EDIS series intend to help water communicators fill the gaps in public knowledge and also bridge the differences between stakeholder groups. It is all in hopes of successfully making productive change for water issues.

Get a closer look at the details and results of each study by reading all six parts. Visit the EDIS topic page for this series at

To learn more about water issues, such as protecting our water sources, just go Ask IFAS.

Want to learn some ways to protect water at home? See EDIS publications #SL507, “Common Pollutants in Stormwater Runoff and Actions that Homeowners Can Take to Reduce Stormwater Pollution,” or #SL509, “How to Manage Yard Wastes to Protect Surface Water Resources.”

Related Blogs

See this blog for an example of water policy affecting agricultural stakeholders:

This blog talks about a program in Central Florida, similar to the one proposed by the sample ballot in Part 1 and 2 of the series:

Check out this blog about recent technological advancements geared to conserve and protect water resources in agricultural practice:


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Posted: March 15, 2024

Category: Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Research, Water
Tags: Ask IFAS, Department Of Agricultural Education And Communication, Water Challenges, Water Policy

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