Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect
Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution:
A Primer on Common Practices and Insights
Office of Water I EPA823-R-21-001 I April 2021
vvEPA
United States
Environmental Protection
Agency

-------
Disclaimer
This document provides information on user perception surveys. While this document cites statutes
and regulations that contain requirements applicable to water quality standards, it does not impose
legally binding requirements on EPA, states, tribes, other regulatory authorities, or the regulated
community and its content might not apply to a particular situation based upon the circumstances.
EPA, state, tribal, and other decision makers retain the discretion to adopt approaches on a case-by-
case basis that differ from those provided in this document as appropriate and consistent with
statutory and regulatory requirements. This document does not confer legal risks or impose legal
obligations upon any member of the public. This document does not constitute a regulation, nor
does it change or substitute for any CWA provision or EPA regulations. EPA could update this
document as new information becomes available.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page i

-------
Contact Information
For more information, questions, or comments about this document, please contact:
Galen Kaufman
U.S. EPA, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mail Code 4304T, Washington, DC 20460
kaufman. galen@epa. gov
Suggested Citation
USEPA. 2021. Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient
Pollution: A Primer on Common Practices and Insights. EPA 823-R-21-001. U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, Washington, DC.
Contributing Authors
Galen Kaufman. U.S. EPA, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, Washington, DC
Jacques L. Oliver. U.S. EPA, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, Washington, DC
Christopher Patrick. 2014-2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science and
Technology Policy Fellow
Natalie Spear. 2016-2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant John A. Knauss
Marine Policy Fellow
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank the following people for help with background research, document
development, formatting, and editing:
Jason Gershowitz and Erica Wales. Kearns & West
Jon Harcum, Susan Lanberg, and Dacia Mosso. Tetra Tech, Inc.
Additionally, the authors gratefully acknowledge the technical input and review from:
Association of Clean Water Administrators - Monitoring, Standards and Assessment Committee
Betsy Behl, Mike Elias, Vanessa Emerson, Claudia Gelfond, Sophie Greene, Deborah Nagle, Barbara
Soares, and Dana Thomas. U.S. EPA, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology
Steven Heiskary. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Scott Kishbaugh. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Tina Laidlaw. U.S. EPA Region 8
Jeff Ostermiller. Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Eric Smeltzer. Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
James Summers. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Mike Suplee. Montana Department of Environmental Quality
William W. Walker, Jr. Consultant
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page ii

-------
Contents
Executive Summary	v
1.0 Introduction	1
1.1	Statutory Context	2
1.2	User Perception Survey Design	4
1.3	Methodology Used to Inform This Primer	5
1.3.1	Literature review	5
1.3.2	Interviews	5
2.0 Problem Formulation Development	6
2.1	Identifying the Problem	6
2.2	Identifying the Question to Be Answered	6
2.3	Is a Survey the Appropriate Tool?	8
3.0 Scoping, Designing, Conducting and Analyzing User Perception Surveys	8
3.1	Scoping: Assessing Resources, Opportunities, and Constraints	8
3.1.1	Existing resources and information	10
3.1.2	Types and amounts of water quality data	10
3.1.3	Expertise and staffing	11
3.1.4	Geographic scale	11
3.1.5	Reducing differences across waterbodies	13
3.2	Designing the Survey	14
3.2.1	Data quality obj ectives	15
3.2.2	Stakeholder engagement	17
3.2.3	Survey population/sampling frame	17
3.2.4	Sample size	19
3.2.5	Understanding sources of error	19
3.2.5.1	Sampling error	20
3.2.5.2	Sample selection procedures	20
3.2.5.3	Nonsampling error	22
3.3	Conducting the Survey	23
3.3.1	Survey options for interacting with the public	24
3.3.1.1	On-site survey	24
3.3.1.2	Online survey	25
3.3.1.3	Mail survey	26
3.3.1.4	Other survey modes	27
3.3.1.5	Mixed-mode surveys	27
3.3.1.6	Resource considerations for survey modes	27
3.3.1.7	Possible measures to address resource constraints	28
3.3.2	Survey questions	29
3.3.2.1	Picture selection	32
3.3.2.2	Beyond photographs	34
3.3.2.3	Auxiliary respondent data	34
3.3.3	Pre-implementation testing	35
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution	Page iii

-------
3.3.4 Communication	36
3.4 Analyzing Survey Results	37
4.0 Ensuring Rigor in the Survey Process and Results	40
4.1	Quality Assurance/Quality Control	40
4.2	Maximizing Technical Rigor	41
5.0 Survey Design Scenarios	41
5.1	Examples of Considerations when Designing a Survey	42
5.1.1	Existing data	42
5.1.2	Existing program or stakeholder groups	42
5.1.3	Funding	43
5.1.4	Survey error	43
5.2	Scenario 1	43
5.2.1	Design	43
5.2.2	Method	43
5.2.3	Delivery	43
5.2.4	Analysis	43
5.2.5	Synopsis	44
5.3	Scenario 2	44
5.3.1	Design	44
5.3.2	Method	44
5.3.3	Delivery	44
5.3.4	Analysis	44
5.3.5	Synopsis	45
5.4	Scenario 3	45
5.4.1	Design	45
5.4.2	Method	45
5.4.3	Delivery	45
5.4.4	Analysis	45
5.4.5	Synopsis	46
5.5	Summary of Survey Design Considerations	46
6.0 Conclusion	47
Appendix A. References	A-l
Appendix B. Interviews	B-l
Appendix C. Survey Design Checklist and Questionnaire	C-l
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution	Page iv

-------
Executive Summary
Protecting surface water quality begins with observations of surface water characteristics. State and tribal
water quality standards programs, acting under section 303(c) of the Clean Water Act,1 often rely on
discrete, quantitative measures of surface water's physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.
Traditionally, these water quality observations have served as the analytical foundation for the
development of numeric nutrient criteria. More recently, individual perception, or user perception, has
emerged as an alternative measure of water quality. User perception of surface water quality, while
related to traditional measures, is unique because of its integration of multiple environmental
characteristics (e.g., color, water transparency, and biological features). Measures of user perception are
also distinguished by their proximity to designated uses—which might explicitly refer to the protection of
aesthetics—and narrative nutrient criteria—which might imply the prevention of adverse impacts to
surface water aesthetics (e.g., no nuisance algal blooms). For these reasons, user perception surveys are an
appealing tool for state and tribal water quality programs pursuing numeric nutrient criteria or translations
of narrative nutrient criteria into numeric values for Clean Water Act purposes such as permitting and
assessment. This primer provides an introduction to user perception survey design, implementation, and
analysis for state and tribal water quality criteria regulators. It describes the methodologies associated
with user perception survey design and the different ways to reach users when conducting surveys. It also
addresses some of the important considerations in interpreting survey results when applying them to
numeric nutrient criteria or narrative nutrient criteria translator development. Survey design scenarios and
interviews with survey practitioners are also included to aid in visualizing user perception survey
concepts.
1 Title 33 of the United States Code section 1313.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page v

-------
1.0 Introduction
Aesthetic quality is an inherent and influential part of the human experience of water resources. Think
about approaching your favorite body of water, whether it is a lake, reservoir, stream, river, estuary, or
coastal marine water. The first things you perceive are how your surroundings look, smell, sound, and
feel. These sensory experiences shape your mental and emotional responses. The intrinsic value of this
psychological response is by itself important, as it influences your overall well-being and quality of life.
This response also affects your willingness to spend time in and on that water, thereby affecting the potential
enjoyment you might experience from recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and swimming.
Nutrient pollution is a widespread problem that affects the aesthetic quality of our nation's waters. It is an
excess of nitrogen and/or phosphorus in a waterbody and is often measured as levels of total nitrogen
(TN) and total phosphorus (TP). This pervasive problem in the United States has a strong influence on the
characteristics that affect humans' perception of waterbodies and their experience in and on those waters.
Waters clogged with growths of algae and plants, fish kills, and discolored and turbid water are among
the many consequences of nutrient pollution that can affect how the public perceives and experiences a
waterbody. These effects of nutrient pollution make waters unappealing to look at, clog fishing lures,
cause long algae strands that can wrap around swimmers' legs and canoe paddles, decrease or eliminate
fish populations that provide food and recreation, cover hard surfaces with slippery algal growths, and
make swimming, recreational snorkeling, and diving difficult or dangerous by reducing visibility, among
many other things.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) provides a mechanism states, territories, and authorized tribes2 (hereafter,
states) can use to protect aesthetic and recreational uses of waterbodies. Specifically, the CWA calls for
states to create designated uses that take into consideration recreation in and on the water (33 U.S.C.
1313(c)(2)(A); Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 131.10(a)), and to develop criteria to
protect those uses (33 U.S.C. 1313(c)(2)(A); 40 CFR 131.11(a)). Because the aesthetic condition of a
waterbody directly affects how willing someone is to recreate in or on a waterbody, there is a clear
connection between aesthetics and the recreational designated uses noted in the CWA. Some states have
further recognized aesthetics as a waterbody quality to be protected by designating an aesthetics
designated use. Because of these connections between aesthetic or recreational uses and CWA goals, the
CWA can be used to develop criteria to protect these uses. User perception surveys are a tool that can be
used to help quantify the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus that are protective of aesthetic or
recreational designated uses, making surveys an effective method states can use within the CWA
framework to develop protective water quality criteria to address nutrient pollution.
Quantifying user perception3 through surveys is oriented around specific types of perceptions. Some
survey tools attempt to quantify odor or lack of odor (as perceived by the user) at a waterbody. Surveys
that focus on perception of odors are especially applicable when malodorous conditions are included as
part of a state's narrative aesthetic standards or when a state receives complaints about the odor of a
particular waterbody. Most state user perception surveys, however, focus on the visual aesthetics of a
waterbody, which are estimated using either photographs or direct estimates of what a user visually
perceives at the waterbody. This primer focuses on aesthetic user perception surveys as applied to
2	The term "authorized tribe" or "tribe" means an Indian tribe authorized for treatment in a manner similar to a state under
CWA Section 518 for purposes of Section 303(c) WQS.
3	Use of the term user perception in this document, unless otherwise noted, refers to the judgment by a population regarding the
usability of a waterbody based on a quality observable within the environment (e.g., green water or blue water, clear water or
murky water). This differs from the concept of user perception in which the goal is to test the users' accuracy of perception and
differences among individuals, which is related to a complex interface of human physiology and psyche.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 1

-------
respondents' perceptions of visual indicators of nutrient pollution in one or more waterbodies. A state
surface water quality standards program (also referred to as a state), however, could consider using
similar surveys to gather information on public opinions of other elements of aesthetic perception or on
aesthetics related to visual indicators of other pollutants.
The purpose of this primer is to assist state water quality managers and scientists in developing user
perception surveys to calculate target values for the derivation of numeric nutrient criteria. This paper
describes some of the common practices employed in designing, implementing, analyzing, and
interpreting user perception surveys. Because the information presented is drawn from expansive subject
areas that are constantly evolving, this document is not designed to be an exhaustive treatment of all
details related to surveys. It is meant to provide a general overview to help readers decide if user
perception surveys are the right tool for them and, if so, to provide an introduction to key concepts and
terminology. The document outlines many of the basic, but important, details water quality scientists and
managers should consider, questions they should ask, and decisions they should make.
To create and conduct a survey most applicable to its situation and needs, it can be helpful for a state to
perform additional research into survey methodology. To assist readers in further exploring topics
presented here, this paper identifies resources in which additional information on each of the topics
discussed can be obtained. Because individuals with survey expertise have practical knowledge in the
field and familiarity with the latest standard practices, it is also recommended that they be consulted or
brought in as members of the survey team.
This primer draws on current state water quality standards and regulations, the current literature related to
user perception survey development and implementation, examples of state-implemented user perception
surveys, and interviews with water quality scientists who have developed and implemented user
perception surveys. This is intended to supplement existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
scientific approaches for numeric nutrient criteria development (USEPA 2000a, 2000b, 2001b).
1.1 Statutory Context
The CWA authorizes states to develop and adopt water quality standards, specifically designated uses and
water quality criteria4 to protect those uses (33 U.S.C. 1313(c)(2)(A); 40 CFR 131.11(a)). Recreational
uses are specified in Section 101(a)(2) of the CWA, are among the most common state-designated uses
(USEPA 2016), and include activities that occur in and on the water (e.g., swimming, boating, and
fishing, respectively). Recreational uses are also directly affected by the aesthetic quality of a waterbody
(NAS and NAE 1972) because the degree of recreational use-when, how long, and how often users
interact with a waterbody-is strongly related to users' visual perceptions of aesthetic quality. Those
perceptions help form users' evaluation of the condition of the water, and thus influence their willingness
to recreate in or on the waterbody (Egan et al. 2009; Keeler et al. 2015; Smith and Davies-Colley 1992;
Smith et al. 1995a, b; WHO 2003). Hence, whether or not a waterbody is meeting its recreational or
aesthetic designated use can be determined by a better understanding of users' perceptions. With the use
of surveys, user perception of aesthetic quality can be quantified and linked to specific biological and
physical properties of a waterbody, which are often influenced by particular pollutants such as nitrogen
and phosphorus (Figure 1) (Ditton and Goodale 1973; Nicolson and Mace 1975; Smith et al. 2015; West
etal. 2016).
4 Water quality standards are composed of three parts: designated uses, criteria to protect those uses, and antidegradation policies.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 2

-------
Figure 1. Conceptual model of the connection between recreational use attainment, aesthetic
expectations, parameters related to nutrient pollution, and user perception surveys
States have been employing user perception surveys for many years to collect data on user perceptions
and to inform the development of both narrative and numeric nutrient criteria (Brown and Daniel 1991;
Heiskary and Walker 1988, 1995; House and Sangster 1991; Kishbaugh 1994; Smeltzer and Heiskary
1990; Smith et al. 1991; Smith and Davies-Colley 1992; Suplee et al. 2009). Some of the earliest
examples from Minnesota and Vermont have served as models for surveys used by other states to
correlate aesthetic perception of the suitability of water for recreation with water quality data (Heiskary
and Walker 1988; Kishbaugh 1994; NYSDEC, n.d.; NYSFOLA and NYSDEC 2003; Smeltzer and
Heiskary 1990).
Water quality standards in different states represent
expectations of waterbody aesthetics in different ways.
Some states have an explicit aesthetics designated use
category for all or a subset of state surface waters
(Environmental Protection Rule ch. 29A5). In some cases,
states express aesthetic expectations implicitly as part of a
recreational or general use designation (CEPA 2015;
RIDEM 2009). In other cases, states might express
expectations of waterbody aesthetics in narrative "free-
from" criteria.6 These criteria can also serve as the state's
narrative criteria specific to nutrients or can relate to all
pollutants (CDEEP 2013; MDEQ 2006; TCEQ 2014).
Although states express aesthetic expectations in a variety
of ways, those expectations are often intended to protect
recreational uses. Aesthetic qualities that relate to
recreational uses include water color, water transparency
or turbidity, the presence/absence of objectionable algal
densities or nuisance aquatic vegetation, and the
presence/absence of malodorous conditions. Aside from
recreational uses, states also have aesthetic expectations in
User perception surveys have been used
to examine water quality in:
•
Florida (Hoyer et al. 2004)
•
Minnesota (Heiskary and Walker

1988,1995; Smeltzer and Heiskary

1990)
•
Montana (Suplee et al. 2009)
•
New York (NYSDEC, n.d.; NYSFOLA

and NYSDEC 2003; Smith et al.

2015)
•
New Zealand (Smith et al. 1991)
•
Texas (TWCA 2005)
•
Utah (UDEQ2011)
•
Vermont (Smeltzer and Heiskary

1990; VDEC 2016)
•
West Virginia (RM 2012)
5 Environmental Protection Rule Chapter 29A, Vermont Water Quality Standards. Vermont Department of Environmental
Conservation.
0 "Free-from" narrative criteria generally contain a statement describing the physical, chemical, or biological conditions that
should not exist in the waterbody or waterbodies, that is, that they should be "free from."
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 3

-------
their water quality standards to protect drinking water uses (e.g., taste, color, odor, or laundry staining) or
fish consumption uses (e.g., fish taste, color, or odor) (ADEQ 2009; KDEP 2013).
Nutrient pollution contributes to many water quality characteristics most commonly associated with
aesthetic and recreational use impairment (e.g., poor water clarity or discoloration; the presence of
floating, blooming, and nuisance algae) (Figure 1, boxes B and C). The scientific literature continues to
reaffirm this connection between nutrient pollution and adverse ecosystem impacts on recreation and
aesthetics uses (Bricker et al. 1999; Dodds et al. 2008; Dodds and Smith 2016; Glibert et al. 2010; NRC
2000; Smith 2003; Smith et al. 1999; Vollenweider 1968). State water quality assessment programs also
provide diagnostic evidence of these linkages, with state CWA Section 303(d) lists identifying nutrient-
related parameters as the second most likely cause of recreational use impairment (USEPA 2016).
As shown in Figure 1, user perception surveys can be used to quantify aesthetic expectations and connect
recreational and aesthetic use attainment to nutrient pollution. Results from user perception surveys (box
D) can be either used to develop criteria for aesthetic expectations (box B; e.g., Suplee et al. 2009), or
taken a step further and compared with known levels of indicators of nutrient pollution to determine
concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus (box C; e.g., VDEC 2016) that support the attainment of
designated recreational and aesthetic uses (box A).
A theme throughout this paper is that there is flexibility when using surveys to allow each state to design
a survey that reflects its statutory and regulatory circumstances.
1.2 User Perception Survey Design
Survey design and survey research are related fields
through which best practices are continuously being
refined as a result of advances in research, technology,
analysis programs, and our growing understanding of
human behavior. A state that elects to conduct a user
perception survey of water quality should evaluate recent
literature to ensure that it is using current best practices.
There is a range of options states can use to capture user
perception data and many factors that shape each survey
process (see the examples in the inset to the right and
section 3.0). Independently, each option can have different
degrees of impact on the survey results. When combined,
these options create the foundation for a valid, defensible
survey process.
Despite this array of survey design options, effective water
quality-based user perception surveys share common
elements that facilitate the estimation of how users (or
potential users) perceive surface water aesthetic quality. These common elements include problem
formulation, consideration of opportunities and constraints, planning of survey design and
implementation, analysis of survey responses, interpretation of the analysis, and methods for ensuring
rigor in the conclusions.
This primer explores these elements and identifies common practices for conducting user perception
surveys by drawing on past and present surveys as well as on the fields of survey design and survey
research. Specifically, this document examines the following actions states might consider when
developing a user perception survey:
• Deciding if a user perception survey is the appropriate tool
Examples of visual survey design options
include:
•	Targeting a specific waterbody type
(e.g., lakes, wadeable streams)
versus all waterbodies in an area
(section 3.1.4)
•	Surveying actual users present at a
waterbody, past users, or
likely/potential users (section 3.2)
•	Conducting surveys using in-person
interviews, mail, phone calls, or
online questionnaires (section 3.3)
•	Selecting the type and number of
questions to get additional
information about the survey
population (section 3.3.2)
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 4

-------
•	Scoping the resources related to the survey
•	Designing a survey
•	Selecting methods to gather data from the public on aesthetic and recreation perceptions of water
bodies
•	Analyzing survey responses
•	Implementing quality control (QC) and minimizing survey error
Section 5.0 provides several survey scenarios that can be used to support development of numeric nutrient
criteria to protect aesthetics and recreational uses. States should consider which options are best suited to
their needs in developing a user perception survey.
1.3 Methodology Used to Inform This Primer
Information for this paper was collected in two phases: (1) a literature review of published reports, papers,
and journal articles related to existing surveys, and (2) interviews with experts and staff who have
developed and implemented water quality user perception surveys. Appendix A provides a complete list
of resources evaluated during the literature review, and Appendix B lists interviewees.
1.3.1	literati! iew
The literature review informed many of the topics covered by this paper, including the existing practices
related to conducting user perception surveys, best practices for survey design and implementation, and
survey statistical research.
Sections 3.0 and 4.0 of this primer draw heavily on Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The
Tailored Design Methods (Dillman et al. 2014); Survey Research and Analysis: Applications in Parks,
Recreation and Human Dimensions (Vaske 2008); and Survey Management Handbook (USEPA 2003).
1.3.2	Interviews
Eight interviews were conducted with individuals who have experience designing and implementing user
perception surveys.
Interviewees included:
•	Six individuals who each held a lead role in conducting surveys at the state level
•	One individual from an EPA region who has worked with several states that have used user
perception surveys to develop nutrient criteria
•	One individual who worked as a consultant on several user perception surveys
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 5

-------
2.0	Problem Formulation Development
Before designing and conducting a survey, the state should address some important questions. It is at this
point, during problem formulation, that the state identifies what the problem is and what questions it
wants to answer, then assesses whether a user perception survey is the most appropriate tool to use.
2.1	Identifying the Problem
In the context of survey design for development of numeric nutrient criteria or translator development,
identifying the problem means identifying a realized or potential ecosystem problem caused by nutrient
pollution that affects attainment of aesthetic and recreational designated uses in a waterbody. The
evidence laid out in scientific literature provides a well-documented understanding of the link between
nutrient pollution and designated use impacts.
In natural amounts, nutrients are essential to ecosystems, supporting the healthy growth of algae, aquatic
plants, and microbes, which are the bases of aquatic food webs. Nutrient pollution of natural systems by
excess nitrogen and phosphorus, however, destabilizes productivity and decomposition, causing a variety
of problems.
The problems associated with nutrient pollution that affect aesthetic and recreational qualities of
waterbodies are often caused by a shift in the composition of algal and plant assemblages toward species
that produce nuisance growths, taste and odor issues, and toxins. Excess algal and plant growth are
common symptoms of nutrient pollution. They reduce the attractiveness of water and can even physically
constrain boating activities when algal and plant growths clog propellers or prohibit boat movement or
access (Heisler et al. 2008; Smith 2003). Many nuisance algal species produce chemicals such as geosmin
and 2-methylisoborneol, which affect taste and odor of water and fish tissue, and in turn affect recreation
(Lopez et al. 2008). Some nuisance algal species also produce toxins such as microcystin (hepatotoxin),
cylindrospermopsin (hepatotoxin/nephrotoxin), and anatoxin (neurotoxin), which affect human and
wildlife health (Backer et al. 2003; Hilborn et al. 2014; WHO 1999). In some cases, the human health
risks presented from exposure to algal toxins are high enough to warrant closing beaches.
These problems associated with nutrient pollution negatively affect the aesthetic qualities of waterbodies
and can impact recreational uses by decreasing the public's willingness and ability to use waters for
recreational purposes.
2.2	Identifying the Question to Be Answered
After identifying the problem to be addressed, the next step is to consider what must be known to address
the problem. For numeric nutrient criteria or translator development, the ultimate question is, "What level
of nutrients will support aesthetic and recreational designated uses?" To start answering that question, the
first question to ask is, "What affects how aesthetic or recreational uses are achieved?" In the case of how
nutrient pollution impacts aesthetic and recreational uses, a state wants to know how waterbody
appearance affects public perception and at what level of nutrients.
Considering problem formulation in a manner similar to the one laid out in EPA's Guidelines for
Ecological Risk Assessment (USEPA 1998) can help define the elements of a system a state is interested
in. Using this method can help the state to clearly define the needed elements of the problem formulation
by identifying management goals, assessment endpoints, and measures of effect. The paragraph below
walks through an example of how to consider a problem formulation in a risk assessment fashion. To
tailor this process, the state might select different management goals, assessment endpoints, and measures
than those described in the example. It's worth noting that when developing criteria for recreational and
aesthetic uses the process deviates from the conditions that predicate a true ecological risk assessment. In
this case, the management goal is not to evaluate an ecological effect, but an effect on human perception
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 6

-------
and activity. This effect, however, is caused by a chain of ecologically based events, and it is, therefore,
still helpful to consider a process similar to the one laid out in the EPA guidelines (USEPA 1998).
Management goals can often be found in state narrative criteria. For example, state narrative criteria often
contain language such as "protection of recreational or aesthetic use from the adverse effects of nutrient
pollution," "maintaining aesthetically pleasing conditions," or "maintaining recreational use." These sorts
of statements describe the management goal(s) for the system. To select an assessment endpoint or
endpoints, think about what ecological attributes are relevant to the management goal,7 what in or about
the system is valued,8 and, in the case of nutrient criteria development, what attributes in the system are
nutrient sensitive. In the case of the typical management goals above, the waterbodies of interest might be
all lakes in a region and the attribute that is cared about could be the appearance of the lake. Because the
state is interested in the aesthetic quality of the waterbody, it might measure the users' perception of the
aesthetic condition of the water quality. For the purposes of numeric nutrient criteria development,
additional measures are also needed. The first is a measure of response that affects the aesthetics of the
waterbody, such as water column algal biomass (often represented as chlorophyll a [chl-a] concentration),
percent benthic algal cover measures (typically represented as chl-a or percent cover), or algal
concentration. Another component that will need to be measured is the stressor affecting the measure and
assessment endpoint. In the case of nutrient criteria, TN and/or TP are the most important parameters, but
the state could additionally consider the effect of confounding factors. A summary can be found below in
Table 1.
Table 1. Example of using a risk assessment framework in problem formulation
Management
Goal
Assessment
Endpoint
Measure of
Effect
Associated Measures Needed for
Criteria Development
Stressor for Criteria
Development
Protection of
aesthetic and/or
recreational use
Waterbody
appearance
User-perceived
water quality
Perceptible response variable
- Algal density, concentration,
coverage
TN and/or TP
concentration
As noted above, chl-a and algal cover are commonly used measures for criteria-focused user perception
surveys intended to relate management goals to stressors. Chl-a is a surrogate measure of algal biomass
with a long history of application in water quality management. Representative values of chl-a that have
been proposed or applied to evaluate and protect recreational uses for lakes include water column chl-a
values of 2.6-7.0 j^ig/L in Vermont and 9-30 (ig/L in Minnesota (varies by lake class) (Heiskary and
Wilson 2005; VDEC 2016). For streams, an example of a chl-a recreational criterion is provided by
Montana, which identified values greater than 200 mg/m2 of benthic chl-a as undesirable and less than
150 mg/m2 as desirable (Suplee et al. 2009). These values are consistent with previously published values
of nuisance chl-a levels in streams (Welch et al. 1988). The other endpoint applied to streams has been
percent algal cover, with recreational users in West Virginia considering greater than 20-25 percent algal
cover unacceptable for recreation (RM 2012).
7	What affects whether the management goal is attained? Often, in the case of nutrient pollution effects on aesthetic and
recreational uses, that answer is algal or plant growth.
8	Do people care if it's green? Do they care about the timing or location of the problem?
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 7

-------
2.3 Is a Survey the Appropriate Tool?
A user perception survey can be useful to determine a nutrient concentration that is consistent with public
perception of what is aesthetically desirable for its waters. That concentration can then be used to
translate existing narrative water quality criteria or to support development of numeric nutrient criteria.
Once the problem(s) and question(s) to be answered have been identified, the state can then decide if a
user perception survey is the most appropriate tool. The first step in determining whether a survey is the
right tool for a state is to assess the current ecological landscape in the state and the state's waterbodies. If
there is a strong visual change caused by nutrient pollution, a user perception survey can be a powerful
tool to address questions pertaining to the change. The following are some helpful questions the state can
ask prior to considering using a survey:
•	Do changes in nutrient concentrations in a waterbody cause responses that can be visually
observed?
•	Are these visual changes consistent among the waterbodies in question (e.g., do all the streams of
interest respond similarly)?
•	Are recreational users able to detect gradations in these visual changes?
•	Are these visual changes meaningful to recreational users or tribes?
If the answer to all of the above questions is "yes," then a user perception survey of the waterbodies can
be a useful tool to assess how the population or specific users view aesthetic water quality. If the answer
is no to one or more questions, or there is uncertainty of the answer, a user perception survey may still be
the right tool, but additional work may need to be done to determine if it is.
3.0	Scoping, Designing, Conducting and Analyzing User Perception
Surveys
The survey process as discussed in this section is divided into four basic phases:
•	Scoping
•	Designing the survey
•	Conducting the survey
•	Analyzing survey results
A state uses the survey design and implementation process to consider all of the pertinent aspects
affecting the survey and determine the most appropriate methodologies to be employed.
3.1	Scoping: Assessing Resources, Opportunities, and Constraints
A user perception survey can take several forms, with each type having different information, effort, and
resource requirements. Once a state has determined it wants to conduct a user perception survey, it can
perform preliminary work to understand its existing resources and information, available expertise, scale
of the effort, and waterbody specific considerations. This groundwork is important in helping the state
determine if it has sufficient information and resources to address the type and scope of survey it is
considering. The evaluations made in the scoping phase also inform later phases of the survey process and
are often revisited as different options are considered.
A conceptual model for user perception survey scoping is provided in Figure 2.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 8

-------
Figure 2. Conceptual model for user perception survey scoping
As shown in Figure 2, a state can ask scoping questions, as described in more detail below, to determine
the breadth of a user perception survey.
1.	What are the criteria and conditions of the waterbodies of interest?
2.	What are your key stakeholder and user groups?
What resources are available to help you contact them?
3.	What level of financial resources do you have to conduct the survey?
4.	What types of water quality data are available? What resources and information are available to
support survey development?
5.	Do you have enough staff time to conduct the survey?
6.	Do your in-house staff have expertise in:
o Survey design?
o Survey research and statistics?
7.	What geographic scale will be used to implement the survey?
8.	Is it necessary or possible to classify the waterbodies?
9.	How do the answers to the scoping questions affect the options available for designing,
conducting, and analyzing a survey? As the survey progresses, decisions should be made in light
of the scoping questions.
10.	Based on the decisions made in the previous steps, what type and amount of resources are
needed?
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution	Page 9

-------
3.1.1	Existing resources and information
One important first step a state can take to inform survey design is to consider the level of resources
available to develop and implement a survey. A state should take stock of existing resources and
information at the beginning of the process to get an understanding of the systems of interest and the
communities involved with those systems, and to take advantage of previous work. The state may want to
consider the following aspects when assessing existing resources and information:
•	Existing water quality criteria of the waterbodies in question
•	Historic water quality conditions of the waterbodies in question
•	Current water quality conditions of the waterbodies in question
•	Available water quality or survey research conducted in the waterbodies in question
•	Effects observed in the waterbodies in response to nutrient pollution
•	Key stakeholder groups and their membership
•	Methods used by other states to conduct user perception surveys
•	Financial resources available to conduct the survey
Existing state criteria can provide a useful resource. A few interviewees found it helpful to include all or
part of the existing regulatory language in the survey questions. Wording used in surveys developed in
other states can also provide useful information. More about the use of existing regulatory and survey
language can be found in section 3.3.2.
3.1.2	Types and amounts of water quality data
The types and amounts of water quality data that a state has available to compare to survey results can
vary and shape the scope and form of a survey. States typically collect data on nutrient concentrations
(e.g., TP and TN) and other factors that are not easily perceived, but nevertheless found in state criteria,
such as dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. When employing user perception surveys, a measure of some
easily perceptible quality of a waterbody that is responsive to nutrient pollution is also needed. Examples
of those qualities include color, clarity of the water, type of plants or algae, and amount of plants or algae.
These qualities can be quantified through a variety of field- and laboratory-based measurements, such as
measures of water clarity (e.g., Secchi depth in lakes and estuaries, transparency tubes in streams/rivers),
direct turbidity and color measurements, chl-a biomass and ash-free dry mass (water column in lakes;
water column or benthic in streams, rivers, and estuaries), macrophyte biomass, visual plant or algal
abundance estimates (e.g., percent cover, algal thickness, and algal filament length measures), and direct
measures of algal/plant community composition (e.g., using microscopy for algae). Data for other
parameters that might influence user perception of the quality of water (e.g., color or turbidity) as well as
other parameters that might influence a waterbody's response to nutrients (e.g., temperature, pH, level of
shading) are also useful during criteria derivation to clarify the relationship of nutrients to user
perceptions.
User perception surveys can be carried out in lentic (lakes or reservoirs) and lotic (wadeable or
nonwadeable streams) waters as well as in estuaries. The type of waterbody determines, to some extent,
the water quality factors that are included in the user perception survey. For example, Secchi depth
measurements are better suited for lentic waters, where biological expression of nutrient pollution is often
in the water column as suspended algae, whereas in lotic waters nutrient pollution stress is often shown
through benthic pathways, which may make benthic algae measures more appropriate (Smith et al. 1999).
Since estuaries can be a mix of both types of environments, a variety of options is possible.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 10

-------
When selecting the water quality factors on which to focus in user perception surveys, it is important that
the chosen factors are:
•	Affected by nutrient concentrations consistently across all the waterbodies in question or the
differences in how they are affected can be accounted for (e.g., through waterbody classification,
see section 3.1.5),
•	Affected by changes in nutrient concentrations in a visually perceivable manner, and
•	Minimally affected by variables other than nutrient concentrations or the effects of other variables
can be accounted for.
After determining the types of data available, it is helpful to inventory the data to determine their spatial
and temporal characteristics. This inventory will be useful when considering if there are sufficient data to
move forward with a survey, formulating data quality objectives (DQOs) (see section 3.2.1), determining
where to conduct the survey, and selecting the relevant information to gather in the survey.
3.1.3	Expertise and staffing
Before designing a survey, a state should consider whether its in-house staff has the necessary skills and
levels of expertise. If it does not, it should consider engaging outside experts.
Using staff with survey and analysis experience, hiring outside
experts, or consulting academics with survey design expertise is
critical to successfully conducting user perception surveys.
According to one interviewee, "contractor selection and making
sure you have the right group is essential" to a successful survey.
Designing and implementing a user perception survey and
analyzing the results may require skills and expertise that the state does not have in-house. One
interviewee emphasized that, "social science is a science. I think most [environmental agencies] are full
of engineers and people trained in physical sciences, which use different language and techniques. Getting
the right people together with the right expertise is pretty critical/' A social scientist, whether in-house or
brought in from outside, can work with physical scientists to ensure both sciences are captured in the
survey and the intended results are realized.
The following areas of expertise might be needed for survey design, implementation, and analysis:
•	Biology and ecology
•	Survey design and methodology
•	Statistical research and analysis
•	Stakeholder/public engagement
One interviewee recommended that, when possible, all parties should participate in a kick-off meeting,
especially if outside personnel are brought in as part of the survey team. Even if outside experts are not
used, the survey team will likely be multidisciplinary. An initial meeting or meetings can help to provide
background on the role of physical and social science, so that all individuals have an understanding of
different languages used by both fields. This interviewee noted, "It helped a great deal trying to make sure
we had both the [ecological] science and the social science right.'' Engaging all members of the survey
team prior to the survey design process will help ensure that the survey meets the state's needs regarding
stakeholder engagement and analysis.
3.1.4	Geographic scale
Depending on how broadly the nutrient criteria will apply and the level of regional differences, a
statewide user perception survey might or might not be the most efficient tool. Most of the research used
to develop this paper focused on surveys that were conducted across an entire state, but a state may want
"Getting the right people
together with the right expertise
is pretty critical."
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 11

-------
to conduct a user perception survey on a smaller scale, such as a particular watershed or ecoregion. This
might be more useful than a statewide survey if there are significant differences in a state's waterbodies.
In this case, a targeted survey might be more meaningful.
Case Study: Minnesota's User Perception Survey
Background/Environmental Question: The waters of the state of Minnesota are grouped into one or more
classes based on their beneficial uses (e.g., aesthetic enjoyment and recreation) and the need for water
quality protection in the public interest (Minn. R. ch. 7050).1 The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
determined that excess phosphorus in Minnesota's lakes can stimulate algal growth that leads to frequent
and severe nuisance blooms and reduced transparency, which, in turn, can limit recreational use of the lakes
(Heiskary and Wilson 2005). As a result, MPCA set out to find answers to the following questions to support
development of nutrient water quality criteria to protect the state's waters (Heiskary and Walker 1988):
•	What is the relationship between the level of phosphorus in a lake and the frequency of nuisance algal
blooms and reduced transparency in that lake?
•	How do lake water quality measurements relate to subjective classifications or nuisance ratings based
on physical appearance?
Why this Approach Was Taken: Prior to conducting the user perception survey for developing nutrient
water quality criteria, MPCA had experience working with lake stakeholders (e.g., lake associations, county
groups, volunteers) during a study of lake water quality. From this experience, MPCA realized the importance
of using an approach in its criteria derivation process that associated chl-o concentrations or Secchi disk
transparency with users' perceptions of water quality (Heiskary 2017, interview; Heiskary and Wilson 2005).
MPCA began to develop a user perception survey and discovered that Vermont had already developed a lake
observer study for waters in that state (Heiskary 2017, interview; Garrison and Smeltzer 1987, cited in
Heiskary and Wilson 2005). After review of Vermont's survey, MPCA decided to integrate the Vermont
survey questions into their lake monitoring program (Heiskary 2017, interview).
Recognizing distinct regions in their state, MPCA considered that definitions of "acceptable" or
"objectionable" lake water quality could vary regionally (Heiskary and Walker 1988). For example, a lake user
in a region dominated by oligotrophic lakes would probably have much higher expectations (e.g., higher
transparency and lower algal levels) than would a lake user in a region dominated by hypereutrophic lakes.
This observation supported MPCA's determination that an ecoregional approach to developing nutrient
water quality criteria was needed (Heiskary and Wilson 2005).
How the User Perception Survey Was Conducted: User perception surveys were initially completed by
MPCA staff members monitoring 40 lakes in early summer 1987. As part of these surveys, they collected
water quality measurements (phosphorus, chl-o, and transparency) to compare to subjective classifications
or nuisance ratings (Heiskary and Wilson 2005). To make the subjective ratings, staff members were asked to
select one of five ratings of physical appearance (ranging from crystal clear to severe scums) and suitability
for recreational and aesthetic enjoyment (ranging from no problems to no swimming) that most accurately
reflected their impressions of conditions at the time of sampling (Heiskary and Walker 1988). As part of a
larger monitoring effort conducted after initial survey implementation, Minnesota volunteer monitors also
completed the surveys. The volunteers were usually members of the public who either lived on the lake or
visited the lake routinely for recreation (e.g., anglers) (Heiskary 2017, interview). They recorded physical
condition, their perceptions of water quality, and Secchi measurements of the lake several times a month
(Heiskary 2017, interview). Using volunteer lake monitors to conduct the study meant that survey
respondents did not represent a randomly chosen sample of public opinion (Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990).
Before using volunteer lake monitors, the state weighed both the potential for bias as well as the benefits
volunteer lake monitors may provide in criteria development through their awareness and knowledge of the
signs and effects of eutrophication (Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990).
1 Minn. R. (Minnesota Rules) ch. 7050, Waters of the State. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/?id=7050&format=pdf.
(continued...)
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 12

-------
Case Study: Minnesota's User Perception Survey (continued)
What Was Accomplished: MPCA found that the methodology used to determine the relationship between
user expectations and lake water quality measurements was an important tool in developing nutrient water
quality criteria (Heiskary 2017, interview). Water quality measurements were cross tabulated against user
survey categories to provide a basis for calibrating nuisance criteria on a statewide and regional basis
(Heiskary and Wilson 2005). MPCA found that there was reasonable agreement between user survey results
and water quality measurements and that those relationships provided a rational basis for setting
phosphorus criteria or management goals related to aesthetic qualities (Heiskary 2017, interview; Heiskary
and Walker 1988). MPCA also found that differences between regions and survey response were statistically
significant and especially pronounced at the lower end of the survey scale (i.e., responses of "crystal clear"
and "beautiful, could not be any nicer") (Heiskary and Wilson 2005; Heiskary and Walker 1988). By
conducting the survey, MPCA enhanced communication with stakeholders, and survey results provided
stakeholder groups with a good understanding of the phosphorus criteria and how they correspond to
perceptions, especially related to their lakes. MPCA continues to use the surveys and finds that their
volunteers continue to be willing to collect data and make observations, which speaks to the affirmation of
the approach (Heiskary 2017, interview).
States should also be aware that survey results could reflect regional cultural differences in perception of
waterbodies and should take those differences into account in the survey design, or conduct surveys on
smaller scales to minimize those differences (Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990). For example, New York State
has very clear, deep lakes to the north where there is a lot of wilderness, and shallow, greener lakes to the
south where there is more development and agriculture. Survey respondents from the north are more
sensitive to decreases in water quality than respondents from the south, who are more accustomed to lakes
with higher algal growth. As noted by one interviewee, "In the agricultural areas, when the water goes
from very green to light green, they consider that great improvement. Whereas in [less developed areas],
people see light green as a huge impairment. This regional [difference] is very important because it
reflects actual management practices." In this situation, it would be useful to consider performing a
survey on a regional scale or making a point to account for regional differences in survey design and
analysis. In addition, states should also be aware that survey results could reflect cultural differences in
perception of waterbodies by subgroups, such as tribes, and those potential differences should also inform
the survey design.
3,1,5 Reducing differences across waterbodies
When using user perception surveys to develop nutrient criteria, it is important for the state to apply those
criteria only to similar waterbodies. Not all waterbodies may exhibit similar responses to nutrient
pollution, even if they are the same category of waterbody. For example, within the category of streams,
first and second order streams may respond to changes in nutrients differently than fourth and fifth order
streams. Categorizing waterbodies helps to reduce variability in the results during later analyses and
produce more meaningful results. For example, the Plains streams in eastern Montana do not exhibit algal
growth consistently in response to nutrient pollution. As a result, the Montana Department of
Environmental Quality (DEQ) conducted a statewide public perception survey, but did not focus on
Plains streams in either the survey or the numeric nutrient criteria that were elicited from the survey
results. Instead, Montana DEQ developed a separate set of nutrient criteria unique to the Plains streams
that focused on nutrient pollution effects on DO and fish (Suplee et al. 2009). Likewise, the Minnesota
Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) compared Secchi readings to user evaluations to determine that
regional differences in user perception of lake water quality occur in Minnesota. Accordingly, they chose
to categorize their waters by ecoregion for their survey (Heiskary and Wilson 2005). One interviewee
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 13

-------
advised that, "if |a state] has a common waterbody type, it is easier to ask and get these questions [about
perception] answered."
3.2 Designing the Survey
Survey design and research is a complex and fluid field. This section provides a general overview of the
different aspects a state should consider when designing a survey. This is not meant to be a complete
guide. To create a survey that is most applicable to its situation, a state may need to perform additional
research into survey methodology and include members with survey expertise on the survey team to
ensure that the results are as robust as possible. Active collaboration with experts in survey design,
application, and statistics in all stages of the process can help ensure a high-quality product.
A state can adopt several of the options explained below to develop a user perception survey. General
information about the level of effort, relative cost, and statistical rigor of the survey results is provided for
these options and also summarized in Table 3 and Table 4 at the end of the primer. Note that this paper
makes no direct differentiation between staff time and time of outside experts; each state should conduct
an analysis to determine overall level of effort and specific expertise necessary to earn out a survey
specific to their needs.
The following discussion addresses some technical design elements of the survey that are considered
outside of how to administer the survey to the public and later analyze the results. The topics addressed
here interact with the survey implementation and analysis phase, but are more focused on how the
technical elements of the survey are constructed to ensure it is technically sound.
A conceptual model for designing a user perception survey is provided in Figure 3.
Access to
Population and Key
Groups
I/"
Figure 3. Conceptual model for designing the survey
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 14

-------
As shown in Figure 3, a state can gather information, as described in more detail in the questions below,
to determine how a user perception survey should be designed.
1.	What are your DQOs?
2.	Do you plan to engage stakeholders? If so, how?
3.	What population do you want represented in your survey population (e.g., general population, key
user/stakeholder groups, both)?
What key groups do you want to target? This assumes that the state has the ability to access those
groups.
Do you have access to contact information for a general population survey?
Do you have access to contact information for key user or stakeholder groups?
4.	What is your ideal sample size?
5.	What steps will you take to minimize survey error?
What margin of error is acceptable for your survey?
3.2.1 Data quality objectives
During the survey design stage, the state can use the DQO process outlined in EPA's technical planning
publication, Guidance on Systematic Planning Using the Data Quality Objectives Process, EPA QA/G-4
(USEPA 2006), to help design a well-planned survey (Figure 4). For the collection of data, DQOs are
needed to "clarify study objectives, define the appropriate type [and amount] of data, and specify
tolerable levels of potential decision errors that will be used as the basis for establishing the quality and
quantity of data needed to support decisions" (USEPA 2006).
When designing a user perception survey, the state can begin its DQO process by stating the problem(s),
identifying the goal(s) of the survey, identifying information inputs, and defining the boundaries of the
survey. Some aspects of this process are described in sections 3.0 and 4.0 of this primer. The state should
also have some idea of the survey methodology and the types of analyses it wishes to conduct on the
results. At this point the state can establish the DQOs, which are clearly stated requirements for the
quality and quantity of new or existing data that will be collected. For the purposes of criteria
development, these requirements are often expressed with some level of acceptable uncertainty. The last
component of the DQO process is the development of a data collection plan that includes the "type,
number, location, and physical quantity of samples and data, as well as the QA [quality assurance] and
QC activities that will ensure that sampling design and measurement errors are managed sufficiently to
meet the performance or acceptance criteria specified in the DQOs. The outputs of the DQO Process are
used to develop a QA Project Plan and for performing Data Quality Assessment" (USEPA 2006).
Throughout survey design, implementation, and analysis, the state should document the survey process
with explicit and detailed rationale for key decisions. This provides a vital record that can help defend the
survey process against challenges.
Additional information on QA and QC considerations of DQOs is provided in section 4.0 of this primer.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 15

-------
Step 1. State the Problem
Define the problem that necessitates the study;
identify the planning team, examine budget, schedule
Step 2. Identify the Goal of the Study
State how environmental data will be used in meeting objectives and
solving the problem, identify study questions, define alternative outcomes
Step 3. Identify Information Inputs
Identify data & information needed to answer study questions
Step 4. Define the Boundaries of the Study
Specify the target population & characteristics of interest,
define spatial & temporal limits, scale of inference
Step 5. Develop the Analytic Approach
Define the parameter of interest, specify the type of inference,
and develop the logic for drawing conclusions from findings
I
I
Decision making
(hypothesis testing)
I
1
Estimation and other
analytic approaches
Step 6. Specify Performance or Acceptance Criteria
	
Specify probability limits for false
rejection and false acceptance
decision errors
Develop performance criteria for new
data being collected or acceptable
criteria for existing data being
considered for use




1
k.
Step 7. Develop the Plan for Obtaining Data
Select the resource-effective sampling and analysis plan
that meets the performance criteria
Figure 4, The process to develop DQOs (USEPA 2006)
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 16

-------
3.2.2	Stakeholder engagement
Stakeholder engagement throughout the survey process is a
critical component not only for communicating information
about the survey to the public and soliciting responses to the
survey, but also for building support for the survey outcomes.
States can develop support early in the process by engaging
stakeholder groups in the design of the survey, which can redi
the risk of stakeholder challenges to the survey process. Stakeholder engagement can be particularly
helpful if a state believes that stakeholder assumptions, such as a perception that citizens are very
unhappy with water quality, will be challenged by survey results.
Stakeholder engagement also creates an opportunity for states to conduct focused analyses to understand
and address specific perceived concerns. Engaging specific subgroups or identifying subgroups in the
survey data provides an opportunity for more detailed analyses of these subgroups. For each subgroup of
interest, the state should elicit responses from that subgroup to maintain the level of statistical significance
and margin of error desired. In addition to getting buy-in to the process, stakeholder engagement also
garners responses, which increases the meaningfulness of analyses.
Whenever a state decides to engage the public in some manner, it is helpful to consider the community it
wishes to reach, including specific groups that:
•	Have a financial interest in nutrient criteria (e.g., water treatment plants);
•	Have an interest in water quality (e.g., recreational users);
•	Make up a significant portion of the community;
•	Are, or potentially could be, affected by environmental justice issues;
•	Are vocal or politically influential; or
•	Have historical or cultural connections to the waterbody or waterbodies of focus in the survey.
An extra effort to engage those groups could ensure that they respond and provide feedback, which will
contribute to the success of the survey. If there are specific subgroups of the general population in which
the survey design team is interested, then recording whether survey respondents fall into one or more of
those groups and including them in the survey analysis will help ensure that they are represented. This
might include documenting any demographic information, including underserved and minority groups
that have access to the resource, as doing so will help address environmental justice considerations.
Hiring translators might also be necessary to conduct surveys or focus groups.
During the design process, the state could even engage key stakeholder groups whose particular buy-in
would be influential to survey success. While conducting additional outreach to key groups requires extra
resources, the effort adds additional robustness to the final results of the survey and any management
decisions informed by the survey.
3.2.3	Survey population/sampling frame
The survey population should be representative of the target population. As used in this document, the
target population is often the general population that resides in a geographically defined unit (e.g.,
watershed) or political unit (e.g., county or state). In addition to ensuring the target population is
represented, it is also important to take into account any subgroups of interest, such as the users of
recreational waterbodies or specific user groups (e.g., anglers, beach users, tribal members). Information
about the general community can be acquired from census records, and a randomized sample can
approximate that population's make-up.
Continued engagement throughout
the survey establishes, grows, and
reinforces trust between the
stakeholders and the state.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 17

-------
A sampling frame is a listing of the population that can be sampled and includes elements such as
telephone numbers, addresses, and other characteristics that may inform the sample design, such as
watershed, county, and distance to nearest waterbody. The elements of a sampling frame are called the
sampling units. The choice of sampling frames and the steps taken to ensure their completeness and
accuracy affects every aspect of the sample design (USEPA 2003). An ideal sampling frame should:
•	Fully cover the target population;
•	Contain no duplication (i.e., members of the target population are not represented more than
once);
•	Not contain elements that are not members of the target population (e.g., some voter registration
rolls or telephone records might inadvertently include people who have moved out of the target
area or are now deceased);
•	Contain information for identifying and contacting the units selected for the sample; and
•	Contain other information that will improve the efficiency of the sample design and the
estimation procedures.
Using stratified sampling (in comparison to simple random sampling) when surveying over a broad
geographic scale could improve sample design efficiency by producing estimates with smaller sampling
errors (USEPA 2003). This could be useful in instances in which there might be reason to suspect that
relatively poor or unique aesthetic waterbody conditions are more likely to occur in some parts of a state.
If such regional differences are anticipated, geographic stratification could be used to select the survey
sample to ensure that respondents who use waterbodies located in geographically representative parts of a
state are included in the survey population. Sample selection procedures are discussed in more detail in
section 3.2.5.2.
One way estimation procedures can be improved is through the collection of auxiliary respondent data,
including age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, education, income, how frequently a respondent visits a
particular waterbody, and purpose of visits (e.g., fishing, swimming). These auxiliary data could be used
to develop a ratio estimate for application to an independent source of data, such as U.S. Census data
(USEPA 2003) to reweight sample results to account for over- or under-representation. Auxiliary
respondent data are discussed in more detail in section 3.3.2.3.
If the state does not have contact information for the targeted survey population or a sampling frame
readily available, it may be necessary to expend a large amount of time and resources to obtain it, which
would impact the cost of conducting the survey. There are several avenues the state can pursue to acquire
contact information for the target population, including voter registration, driver's license registration,
and tax records.
It is helpful for the state to consider the limitations of the list chosen to accurately represent the subgroups
it wishes to target. For example, if a state has low voter registration or if there is a significant user group
with lower registration, then voter rolls might not be an appropriate contact list to use for a general
population survey.
States can also survey specific user groups by either using existing lists of known recreational users or
surveying at recreational waterbodies. If there are specific user or stakeholder groups the state wishes to
target, it could leverage resources such as:
•	Sporting or fishing license registration lists
•	Membership rosters or mailing lists for various interest groups, such as recreational,
environmental, or community groups
•	The same lists as described above for the general target population, but filtered by ZIP code
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 18

-------
One interviewee shared that his state also weighted its survey population based on frequency of use by
anglers. Because of the detailed nature of the existing data to which the state had access, it was able to
survey known anglers using a random selection process that gave more weight to individuals who fished
more frequently. The same state also chose the waterbodies to survey through a random selection process
that weighted sites based on the number of visitors.
When designing a sampling frame and target population it is helpful to consider the characteristics of each
and how they will affect the survey design. For example, if minors under the age of 18 are included in the
sampling, additional Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals and parental consent might be needed
(see section 4.2 for more on the IRB). If there is a tribe in the target population the state should also
determine if the tribe has any reserved rights relating to recreation in the waters of interest.
3.2.4	Sample size
Since it is not practical from a resource standpoint to interview the population of an entire state or region,
a portion (or sample) of the population is interviewed. The sample size needed for a particular survey is
dependent on the general target population size, whether any subgroups are specifically engaged in
addition to the general target population, the amount of variation in the characteristics being measured in
the population, the level of statistical significance desired, the margin of total survey error that is deemed
acceptable, the expected response rate for the survey population, and the types of analyses intended to be
done with the results. The actual number of responses needed to achieve the desired level of accuracy,
consistent with the objectives of the survey, should be calculated with the help of a statistician or other
experts familiar with survey statistics.
To perform the most basic levels of analysis on survey results of the general target population, 200-400
responses should be sufficient for typical levels of statistical significance and margin of total survey error
(Vaske 2008). If the state wants to compare responses of the general target population against subgroup
populations, or subgroups against subgroups, more responses will be needed to achieve statistical
significance.
When designing a survey, it is possible to back-calculate (based on the expected response rate) the
number of surveys the state will need to distribute in order to achieve a desired level of statistical
significance and a margin of total survey error that the state deems acceptable (see section 3.3.1) (Vaske
2008). In general, a statistical significance of 95 percent is considered standard. Lower levels could be
acceptable pending unique considerations for the survey (e.g., related activities to engage stakeholders).
3.2.5	Understanding sources of error
Error will always exist in survey design, but its influence can be minimized by careful survey design,
understanding sources of error, reducing those sources as much as possible, and correcting for their
influence in the results. The survey team can consider the total survey and determine how to best
minimize total error within the given time and resource constraints. Since there is a range of options for
conducting user perception surveys, it is best to select the one that is the most acceptable and suitable for
a given scenario.
To ensure statistical rigor, it is critical that the survey design team minimize the following four types of
error:
•	Sampling error
•	Coverage error
•	Nonresponse error
•	Measurement (response) error
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 19

-------
The latter three types of error are collectively known as nonsampling error and are discussed in section
3.2.5.3.
3.2.5.1	Sampling error
An acceptable level of sampling error for key statistics is considered during survey design. The information
derived from the data collected from the survey population (the sample) will differ from information derived
from data collected from the entire population using exactly the same methodology. The difference between
these two sets of values for every statistic is called the sampling error.
Selecting the margin of error and desired level of statistical significance is a risk management decision
and a tradeoff between the cost to implement the survey and the needed level of precision to make
decisions using the survey results. Smaller margins of error and higher levels of statistical significance are
often desired when there is a high cost to implement (or not implement) decisions that result from the
survey or if a state is more risk averse. Smaller margins of error and higher confidence levels require
larger sample sizes, however, and thus result in higher costs.
Several resources can be used to determine the most appropriate level of statistical significance and the
level of total survey error appropriate to meet the state's DQOs. Survey research and statistical experts
can be helpful and can familiarize the survey team with industry standards and current practices. The
survey team should also review reports or published articles on how other states have conducted similar
aesthetic user perception surveys, including information on sampling error. Two interviewees for this
report indicated that they conducted a random sampling approach using a plus or minus (+/-) 3.1- and +/-
5.0-percent margin of error, respectively, with a 95-percent confidence interval (CI), for the design of
their survey sample sizes. That is, there was a 95-percent likelihood that the results from these two state
surveys were within +/- 3.1 and +/- 5.0 percent of the target population. Larger margins of error (e.g., +/-
10 percent instead of +/- 5 percent) and smaller percent CIs (e.g., 90-percent CI instead of 95-percent CI)
would lead to smaller required sample sizes.
To develop criteria based on user perception surveys, the state also needs samples of water quality
variables to compare to the survey results. In addition to considering the sampling error associated with
the survey, it is also valuable to consider the sampling error associated with measuring water quality in a
waterbody over time and space. Because variability in water quality can influence users' perception of the
water, the state should sufficiently characterize the water quality conditions associated with levels of
perceived aesthetic quality. One way this can be achieved is by collecting enough samples over time and
space to achieve desired levels of statistical accuracy. If heterogeneous patterns in water quality are
suspected, it might also be helpful to classify or segment waters into areas of more homogenous
conditions. For example, if differences exist in water quality between nearshore and offshore, or between
different stream orders, these could be separated in a survey (see section 3.1.5 for more information).
3.2.5.2	Sample selection procedures
Various methods are available for achieving a random sampling of the targeted survey population to
reduce sampling error while reducing the number of respondents needed. As the name suggests, simple
random sampling is the most basic approach for sample selection, as all members in the targeted survey
population have an equal probability of selection. This approach, however, might not provide sufficient
information on key population subgroups. Other methods, such as stratified sampling, involve dividing
the target survey population into non-overlapping subgroups and then selecting a simple random sample
from each one. Multistage (cluster) sampling uses primary and secondary sampling units (Vaske 2008).
For example, a state might randomly select the streams (primary sampling unit) on which to perform an
on-river survey and then interview all individuals (secondary sampling units) recreating over a 10-hour
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 20

-------
period.9 While simple random sampling is the most basic sampling approach, the other methods above
reduce costs by allowing for improved sample design efficiency by producing estimates with smaller
sampling errors (USEPA 2003).
The survey team generally develops a sampling plan that provides complete specifications for the
procedures to be used for selecting sample units from the frame. As described in greater detail in EPA's
Survey Management Handbook (USEPA 2003), the selection procedures in the sampling plan should
specify any tasks necessary to reorganize or otherwise refine the sampling frame prior to selection, such
as:
•	Determining sample size and survey population;
•	Eliminating units that are not in the target population;
•	Identifying steps that will be taken to screen out ineligible sampling units, obtain better addresses,
and so forth after the initial selection is made;
•	Determining whether simple, stratified, or multistage (cluster) random sampling will be used;
•	Transforming information about individual units into measures of size, which is needed for
proportional, stratified-random sampling
•	Determining whether the selection of sampling units at each stage will be with equal or variable
probability. If variable probability is to be used, the basis for assigning selection probabilities to
individual units must be included.
Sampling plans take into consideration the estimation procedures that might be used to convert sample
data into estimates for the population. The approach used for the estimations plays a role in determining
the size of the sample. In addition, some estimates require the capture of certain data (e.g., respondent ZIP
code and age, how frequently a respondent visits a particular waterbody and purpose of visits [e.g.,
fishing, swimming]) when the sample is selected, during the survey's data collection phase, or during the
survey's processing phase (USEPA 2003).
Estimation procedures include applying weights to give greater relative importance to some sampled
elements than to others, adjusting for nonresponse, and using auxiliary information from the questionnaires,
sampling frames, or other sources. Survey analysts can assign weights to adjust for sampled elements for
which the probability of selection is in some way unequal, eligible units for which no data were collected
(total nonresponse units), and sampling units not included in the sampling frame (noncoverage errors).
When selecting samples, it is important not only to consider the human sample population, but also other
variables, such as the sample of waterbodies. For example, inclusion of a nonrepresentative sample of a state's
population of lakes or streams in the user survey sites could introduce errors into the results, depending on the
methods of data analysis used. For example, nonrandom selection of lakes included in Vermont's volunteer
monitoring program made it necessary to synthesize representative distributions of lake water quality variables
from a separate, probability-based lake sampling program before analyzing rates of false positive and false
negative use impairment determinations associated with numeric nutrient criteria (Smeltzer et al. 2016). When
possible, representative sampling of lake and stream sites based on the statewide distributions of nutrients
and/or other water quality variables would avoid this type of problem.
9 More information about the different types of sampling methods is available in Chapter 8, "Survey Implementation, Sampling,
and Weighting Data," of Vaske (2008).
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 21

-------
3,2,5,3 Nonsampling error
In addition to sampling error described in section 3.2.5.1, there are three types of nonsampling error
associated with surveys (Dillman et al. 2014; USEPA 2003; Vaske 2008):
•	Coverage error, which results from interviewing ineligible units or failing to interview eligible
units
•	Nonresponse error, which results when no data or incomplete data are obtained from eligible units
•	Measurement (response) error, which results from incorrect reports by the interviewer or the
respondent
Coverage errors are the result of a survey that does not correctly represent the population it was intended
to sample. They can occur when incorrect listings of households are provided for a mail survey or in-
person interviewers are given incorrect stream locations to perform on-river surveys. These errors can
often be attributed to oversights in survey design; however, in some cases, the interviewers or respondents
might be responsible for coverage errors. For example, interviewers might send a survey to the wrong
household by addressing the envelope incorrectly. Fraudulent surveyors might even make up the answers
to a questionnaire for a member of a hard-to-reach population instead of obtaining data from the
designated respondent (USEPA 2003). These errors can be minimized by acquiring or developing an
accurate sample frame and appropriate training, screening, and monitoring of interviewers.
Nonresponse error occurs when one or more of the selected respondents do not respond to the survey.
What is considered an adequate response rate varies by research concentration and method. Some
consider a 50-percent response rate adequate, while other researchers consider a response rate of more
than 60 percent to be adequate (Vaske 2008). Typically, states determine the minimally acceptable rate of
response (target response rate) necessary to achieve the research objectives and acceptable level of
sampling error. Some researchers contend that a response rate of less than 70 percent for specific
population segments signals a red flag for the research (Vaske 2008). However, it can often be the case
that the response rate is lower than 70 percent depending upon the method used to elicit survey responses.
Some typical response rates as well as ways to increase responses are discussed in section 3.3.1.
Nonresponse is primarily a problem if the nonrespondents are not a random sample of the total sample.
For example, it is common for certain demographics not to respond to certain survey types. Failure to
acquire data from all user groups might result in biased survey results. It is a best practice to actively
investigate the potential for nonresponse survey bias prior to implementation (Dillman et al. 2014).
Measurement, or response, error includes bias and imprecision associated with sampling methodology.
This error can be caused by the following:
•	Method used to obtain responses (e.g., in-person, phone, mail, online)
•	Presentation of survey questions
o Wording
o Order
o Context
•	Language barriers
•	Respondent disposition
o Confusion
o Ignorance
o Carelessness
o Dishonesty
•	Instructions and training received by interviewer
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 22

-------
•	Location of interview
•	Deliberate errors
Preparing standardized survey procedures, performing pre-implementation testing (including testing
electronic survey platforms, when applicable), and ensuring that the standardized survey procedures are
consistently followed when collecting survey information can reduce nonsampling errors. More
information on methods that can reduce nonsampling error for individual survey modes is provided in
section 3.3.1.
More information about the types of survey error is available in EPA's Survey Management Handbook
(USEPA 2003, ch. 4); in Dillman et al. (2014, ch. 1); and in Vaske (2008, ch. 8).
3.3 Conducting the Survey
States can conduct surveys of members of the public in different ways. Each method carries its own set of
pros and cons that a state should consider. These various survey techniques are not mutually exclusive,
and a state could choose to use one or more approaches. This section briefly lays out different modes
states can use to interact with the public and collect survey response data, how to develop survey
questions and select photographs, types of information that could be collected about survey respondents,
ways to pre-test surveys, and suggestions for post-survey follow-up with respondents.
A conceptual model for conducting a user perception survey is provided in Figure 5.

3. Communication
1. Survey Mode(s)
and Engagement

with Stakeholders

~
2. Select and Test
4. Auxiliary
Pictures and/or
Information
Questions
Figure 5. Conceptual model for conducting the survey
As shown in Figure 5 and described in more detail in the questions below, a state can gather information
to determine how a user perception survey should be conducted.
1.	What mode(s) will you use to conduct the survey?
Looking at the comparison of survey modes, do you have adequate funding and staff resources to
carry out the different modes you wish to use?
2.	Flow will you select and refine questions and/or pictures used in the survey?
3.	What are your plans for communicating with the public during and after the survey?
4.	What types of information do you plan to collect about the demographics of the respondents?
5.	Flow will you pretest or pilot your survey?
6.	Do you plan to follow up with respondents after the survey and, if so, how?
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 23

-------
3.3.1 Survey options for interacting with the public
3.3.1.1 On-site survey
On-site surveys specifically target users of the waterbody who are
recreating in some manner on, in, or around it. Surveys conducted on-
site at the waterbodies of interest could be done in numerous ways,
including the following:
•	Paper surveys distributed to respondents to complete on-site or
at home
•	Electronic versions of the survey given on a tablet/laptop computer or via a web link or mobile
application to complete on-site or at home
•	In-person interviews
Respondents could be asked to respond to preselected images or to conditions observed at the actual
waterbody at the time of the survey. For surveys that ask respondents about current water conditions,
responses are most meaningful when paired with water quality data taken at the same time, from the same
site. This can be achieved with trained samplers (either staff or volunteer) taking measurements and water
samples concurrent with on-site surveys.
In-person surveys tend to have the highest response rate of the
survey modes discussed here. The number of responses
collected is dependent on the number of people at the site at
the time the surveyor is out. As described earlier, the survey
team needs to define the sampling frame carefully and
determine what sampling units need to be surveyed. The state
should have a good sense of the volume of visitors and peak
days and times for individual sites to most effectively use staff resources. The survey team might be
concerned with obtaining information from both the population that uses the waterbodies during the
weekend and the population that uses the waterbodies during the week. Reweighting10 can be used to
handle some sampling bias after completion of the survey, but most of these considerations should be
made when defining the sampling frame.
In addition to visitor records and logs that local and state agencies keep, the survey design team can use
innovative technologies to determine which waterbodies are most popular. In one example, Keeler et al.
(2015) analyzed geotagged photographs uploaded onto a photography-based social media site to obtain
data on lake visits in Minnesota and Iowa.
If the on-site survey consists of one-on-one interviews, the interviewer(s) should undergo training on
interview technique. The interviewer can be a potential source of survey error, and training can
significantly reduce interviewer error (Vaske 2008). Studies have shown that the interviewers who
received more training "produced lower item nonresponse, produced more complete recording of
responses to open-ended questions, were more likely to read instructions and questions as worded, and
10 The responses of the people sampled in a survey should be reflective of the overall population of interest. Sometimes this does
not happen because of nonresponse or other biases that cause the responses of one or more groups to be over- or under-
represented. Reweighting is an analysis method that is used post-survey to correct this problem. In reweighting, auxiliary
respondent data can be used to assign a weight to each survey respondent's answers to make the overall response more similar to
the population response if neither oversampling nor undersampling occurred. Reweighting is done by comparing collected
auxiliary respondent data to known population data such as age, sex/gender, address, income, or other information. Weights are
assigned to each respondent based on the difference between the auxiliary data for the sample and the population. More on
auxiliary respondent data can be found in section 3.3.2.3.
Survey options for interacting
with the public include:
•	On-site
•	Online
•	Mail
•	Phone
•	Mixed-mode
Responses are most meaningful
when paired with water quality
data taken at the same time, from
the same site.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 24

-------
were more likely to probe and to probe appropriately" (Dahlhamer et al. 2010). Helpful training topics
include how to best approach a potential respondent, or not, if there are safety concerns, such as
environmental conditions or safety issues with the potential respondent that would preclude conducting
the interview. Training could also include how to explain the purpose of the survey and how to ask the
questions in a neutral, nonleading manner (Vaske 2008). In addition, the interviewer should be
professional, personable, and composed. To minimize response errors associated with in-person surveys,
EPA also recommends that the interviewer establishes a good rapport with the respondent (USEPA 2003).
An on-site survey is not a random sampling of the population, which may or may not be an issue.
Deliberate nonrandom sampling strategies can be employed if the state is particularly concerned with the
opinions of specific user groups. Nonrandom sampling can, however, introduce coverage error in the
survey if the state is concerned with a general population survey; those surveyed on-site are highly likely
not to be representative of the larger population and are also likely not to include anyone who already
thinks the water is too degraded to use for recreation. Whether a survey is random or nonrandom should
be an intentional design choice. Associated assumptions should be examined to ensure consistency of the
design with reality. Some states that have conducted user perception surveys wished to compare user
groups with the general population and conducted on-site surveys in conjunction with a randomly mailed
survey. One interviewee noted that the state "had wanted to do an on-river survey to get the opinions of
people who were actually out recreating. But, because we knew the regulation would affect the general
population, we also carried out a randomized mail survey of citizens."
While on-site surveys can be, but are not always, relatively inexpensive in terms of direct cost, they do
require intensive staff time and energy. One interviewee's state, for example, hired an intern solely to
conduct on-site surveys over the course of one summer at various sites across the state. The actual direct
costs of conducting on-site surveys are determined by factors such as travel costs, training interviewers,
and number of sites to be visited. States should consider all costs associated with conducting on-site
surveys, including costs related to the sites surveyed, the frequency with which staff members are on-site
conducting surveys, the method of survey delivery (e.g., interview vs. paper), and collation and tabulation
of results.
3.3.1 line survey
Today, it is easy to solicit and collect information online. There are numerous survey platforms that can
facilitate states conducting user perception surveys online at very low cost and little staff time. The
different survey platforms range in price, functionality, integration with other data tools, and degree of
analytics available, and the state should choose a platform that matches its needs.
Response rates to electronic surveys, as well as mailed surveys (discussed below in section 3.3.1.3), are
typically lower than response rates to in-person surveys, but can be improved through a variety of
techniques. One strategy is to increase the respondent's interest in the topic or its perceived importance
(USEPA 2003). The state can use different means, such as social and traditional media outlets, to increase
the visibility and perceived importance of the survey with the public. The state can also partner with key
user groups that can encourage their memberships to complete the survey. Prepaid incentives can also
increase response rates. For example, in 2007, a survey of Washington and Idaho residents on quality of
life that included a $5 incentive achieved a response rate of 70 percent (Dillman et al. 2014). Lastly,
improved response rates can be achieved through survey follow-ups or additional contacts. The benefits
of follow-ups can be twofold: (1) they improve response rate, and (2) they might provide some insight
into nonresponse bias (i.e., hard-to-reach respondents might be a proxy for nonrespondents). Response
rates improve substantially for each follow-up, although less for the last follow-up than for the first.
The biggest challenges with an online survey are controlling sampling and representativeness of the
survey population, and verification of the sampled population. By not carefully controlling the survey
population, the state introduces coverage and nonresponse error. It can be difficult to guarantee a truly
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 25

-------
randomized survey population, and very active and vocal stakeholder and user groups could be
overrepresented. Additionally, individuals who learn about the survey via social media or a news outlet
might be more likely to complete the online survey, or other survey mode, if they are already interested in
the topic. Many online survey applications have means to limit respondents to the targeted population by
requiring a specific passcode, multifactor authentication, invitation via a unique email link, or unique
identifiers so there can be only one survey respondent per link or code. This could be used to help control
the survey respondent population and minimize survey error. Following response collection, analysis can
include a response audit for IP addresses or geolocation metadata to verify whether there is one survey
respondent per link or code.
Online surveys can be a powerful tool that can engage a large number of people with very minimal effort
on the part of the state. One interviewee who has overseen multiple user perception surveys noted that
currently, states have not used digital surveys, but welcomed the idea of using them in the future. This
person added, "I would not dismiss it. I would have bigger concerns if we didn't think about it." The state
should carefully consider the trade-offs of using online surveys and how it can address error in both
implementation and analysis.
3.8.1.8 Mail survey
A few states have mailed hard-copy survey forms to a randomized sample of the general population taken
from a pre-existing, statewide voter registration list. These states asked respondents to fill out a paper
survey and return it via mail.
While relatively low cost, this method typically results in a lower response rate than other modes.
Interviewees stated they experienced response rates of approximately 20-30 percent and followed up with
reminder mailings. Combining mailed surveys with an online survey and allowing respondents to return
the survey via the mail or to complete an online survey could increase response rate.
Mailed surveys should include multiple communications, as this is the most effective way to increase
response rate. Reaching out via multiple communications can also be useful for the other survey modes
and should be considered as a means to increase survey response rate. Dillman et al. (2014) and Vaske
(2008) suggest the following as possible multiple contacts:
•	Prenotification letter
•	Paper survey
•	Thank you / reminder postcard or phone call
•	Replacement paper survey
Without the follow-up reminders, response rates are typically 20-40 percent lower than when reminders
are employed (Dillman et al. 2014).
An additional step that can be taken to reduce coverage errors for mail surveys is verifying street
addresses for accuracy before surveys are sent to respondents.
The cost of a mailed survey increases greatly if the state does not have easy access to a contact list of the
population it wishes to survey. It can spend large amounts of effort and money to get a general population
contact list.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 26

-------
3.3.1 ter survey mo des
This discussion does not include telephone surveys or other survey modes.11 The user perception survey
modes already discussed were the focus of our research. When designing a survey, the state should
consider if other modes than the ones described in this primer might suit its needs more effectively. There
also might be new technologies in the future that will allow for additional, not-yet-considered modes for
conducting a user perception survey. One example of an innovative use of technology to examine user
perception of water quality is discussed in a study conducted by Keeler et al. (2015). This study used
geotagged photos from a social media site as proxies for lake visits by recreational users. They then
compared the numbers of photographs taken at a lake with the lake's in-situ measured water quality,
finding a positive correlation between the two. The use of mobile phone technology and applications is
also currently being considered by researchers as a low-cost, convenient way to collect aesthetic and
perception information in the future.
3.8.1.5	Mixed-mode surveys
It may be appropriate for a state to use a combination of the modes discussed earlier when conducting a
survey in order to improve coverage of the targeted survey sample population, increase response rate,
and/or reduce cost. This can be done either by offering multiple methods of responding to the survey
(e.g., mailing out a paper survey as well as conducting on-site in-person interviews), but could also entail
using different modes to reach out to the same population (e.g., mailing a physical letter containing a
URL to an online survey, or following up to mailed surveys with a reminder phone call). Using a mixed-
mode approach can increase survey response rate with very little cost; the survey design team should
consider the most effective way to approach this.12 Care is needed, however, to ensure that only one
response is used per respondent and, where applicable, that reweighting is used to account for
undersampling or oversampling of certain subgroups.
3.8.1.6	Resource considerations for survey modes
Conducting a user perception survey can sometimes be expensive and states may be constrained by time,
staff resources, and financial resources. Table 2 provides relative guidelines on some considerations for
three of the most commonly used modes of survey delivery—on-site, online, and mail surveys—that
could impact whether a state elects to use each mode and to what extent.
11	Research for this paper revealed only one state—West Virginia—that employed telephone surveys, although they combined
them into a mixed-mode survey. More detail about West Virginia's survey is found in the case study in section 3.4. No additional
surveys were found that included a major telephone component in conducting user perception surveys, so this primer does not go
into great detail about telephone surveys. If a state wishes to explore conducting a telephone survey, it can consult Vaske (2008,
ch. 8) and Dillman et al. (2014, ch. 8), which provide more information.
12	More information about mixed-mode surveys is available in Dillman et al. (2014, ch. 11).
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 27

-------
Table 2. Survey mode considerations
Consideration
On-Site
Online
Mail
Likelihood of nonresponse
Low
Low
High3
Cost per completed survey
High
Low
Low
Staff or outside expert time
High
Lowb
Mediumb
Anticipated response rates:

General population
Medium
Medium0
Highd
User or stakeholder group
High
Medium
Medium
Data collection time
Medium
Fast
Slow
Need for contact information
Low
Medium
High
Source: Vaske 2008, p. 126.
Notes'.
a While relatively low cost, the likelihood of nonresponse is expected to be higher for mail surveys than for on-site and online surveys.
b Although it would require some time to develop an online survey and oversee its implementation, this type of survey will generally take
the least amount of time to implement because many online platforms will gather all of the needed data and can include some level of
data entry consistency. With mail surveys, there is more work involved with extracting the data and compiling data in one place.
c Online response rates would be expected to be medium because there are parts of the general population (e.g., elderly, populations
with no internet access) that could be missed if online-only surveys are conducted.
d Anticipated response rates representative of the general population are expected to be higher for mail surveys than for on-site
surveys and online surveys. On-site surveys might represent only a particular user or stakeholder group viewpoint. For online surveys,
it can be difficult to guarantee a truly randomized survey population.
3.3.1.7 Possible measures to address resource constraints
It is important to note that none of the user perception surveys in our analysis were developed in isolation
and that states often borrow survey language or design elements from one another to best suit their own
purposes. When developing a survey, a state does not need to start the process from scratch. One
interviewee recommended that a state can and should look to see what other states have done, particularly
states of similar region, ecology, or political need.13 This can save time and cost during the design phase.
However, the state should consider the quality of the survey or the survey components it wishes to
borrow. The state should copy a survey only if it is designed well and fits their needs.
A state can also identify the survey populations that are most important to consider when developing
nutrient criteria and focus the survey on those populations. Reducing the size of the survey population has a
direct impact on the resources needed to implement the survey. A state might be more interested in the
opinions of recreational users than in those of the general population. Choosing to solely survey subgroups,
however, increases the likelihood of coverage error and leaves the survey open to criticism of a biased
respondent base. There are options for designing the survey to incorporate both general and subpopulations
and decrease the survey effort needed. For example, the survey design team could elect to leverage one or
more interested groups with which it is already in contact, such as volunteer water quality sampling teams,
and have them complete perception surveys while in the field, while also surveying members of the public
who are on-site (Hoyer et al. 2004; Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990). One interviewee noted that, by choosing
that option, the state determined from analysis of the resulting data that "generally, those doing the sampling
were more sensitive" to visual changes in water quality. The different levels of sensitivity of certain groups,
such as volunteers, could bias survey result recording and interpretation of survey respondents. The unique
experiences and skill sets of volunteers, however, could provide additional useful information for the
survey. The tradeoff of reducing survey populations to achieve cost savings or other survey goals should be
carefully monitored, and an analysis of results to determine response bias and validity is recommended.
13 The inset in section 1.1 contains examples of places where user perception surveys have been used to examine water quality.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 28

-------
The survey design team might also want to explore technology solutions that can increase efficiencies in
conducting surveys. For example, with the high volume of smartphone users today, it may be possible to
decrease the number of on-site interviews needed by posting a Quick Response (QR) code linking to an
online survey in prominent locations at popular waterbodies. States might want to explore options such as
cost-saving measures, with the caveat that these tools should be pretested to ensure they achieve the
expected number and types of responses.
3.3.2 Survey questions
User perception surveys of water quality have generally either used real-time conditions of waterbodies
(asking questions about the visual aesthetics and recreational quality of the water as it is observed at the
time of the survey) or used high-quality photographs of waterbodies.
The states studied tended to fall into two groups regarding the approach taken in their survey questions:
1.	States that conducted their on-site surveys in conjunction with sampling and asked two questions.
One question addressed the visual appearance of the water, and the other question explored the
respondent's willingness to recreate in it.
2.	States that presented survey respondents with a set of photographs of waterbodies with known
chl-a concentrations and asked respondents to note whether each photograph depicted desirable
or undesirable water quality.
States could also combine these two approaches, creating an opportunity to assess bias between
respondents completing the survey on-site and those completing the survey in other settings. In any
survey process, states should test assumptions for respondent bias whenever possible.
When developing a survey, it is crucial to first determine what study questions need to be answered to
meet management objectives. For example, a state might find it important to determine whether the
aesthetic conditions of a waterbody are considered to be of good quality (i.e., desirable) or would be
considered barely acceptable.
After determining what overall questions need to be answered to meet management goals, states have
several ways to approach the development of survey questions. Each approach affects the robustness of
the survey process, especially when combined with other design decisions such as sample size or survey
population. The process by which a state selects survey questions and pictures includes considering how
to minimize survey error. A state could copy and customize another state's questions or images, or
develop its own questions or images using techniques like A/B testing (Kohavi et al. 2009). Conducting a
pretest or pilot among staff or in a focus group helps refine the survey and identify any issues that could
affect responses once initial questions and photographs are selected (see section 3.3.3).
In developing the survey questions, one interviewee recommended using the existing narrative nutrient
criterion to develop the survey, or a close paraphrase of the regulatory language. For example, if a state's
water quality standards require that certain waters "exhibit good aesthetic value" or are "free from
excessive algal growth," then it would be helpful to ask respondents to rate the aesthetic conditions by
including word choices that include "good" or by directly asking whether algal growth is "excessive" at
the time of observation. This way, an unambiguous yes/no determination can be obtained as to whether
aesthetic impairment existed for the observer, making interpretation of the survey results much more
straightforward when used to derive nutrient criteria or assess compliance with water quality standards. If
the state is using existing regulatory language, it should consider that regulatory language might be
difficult to understand in some cases, depending on wording used and survey audience. Pretesting or
pilot-testing the survey can help to determine the appropriateness of regulatory language in the survey
questions. If no existing narrative statement is being used and the survey is instead intended to inform the
development of one, the language used in the survey could be used in the narrative criterion.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 29

-------
Case Study: Vermont's User Perception Survey
Background/Environmental Question: Vermont's water quality standards mandate that state waters be
managed to achieve and maintain a level of quality that fully supports the specific designated uses of each water
body. The types of designated uses that must be supported are aquatic biota, wildlife, and aquatic habitat;
aesthetics; swimming and other primary contact recreation; boating, fishing, and other recreational uses; public
water supplies; and irrigation of crops and other agricultural uses (VDEC 2016; Environmental Protection Rule ch.
29A).1 As part of its effort to develop nutrient criteria to protect aesthetic uses, the Vermont Department of
Environmental Conservation (DEC) set out to answer the question: "How can parameters such as TP, chl-o, or
transparency be linked to impacts such as nuisance algae levels and recreational impairment?" (Smeltzer and
Heiskary 1990).
Why this Approach Was Taken: Vermont DEC began developing numeric nutrient water quality standards in the
1980s. At that time, a state fish hatchery required a permit to discharge phosphorus into Lake Champlain, but
Vermont DEC had no numeric nutrient criteria or total maximum daily loads to support permit limit development
(Smeltzer 2017, interview). The department decided to measure aesthetics by implementing a lake user perception
survey to link water quality measurements to recreational use and aesthetic conditions, for the purpose of
protecting aesthetics (Smeltzer 2017, interview; Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990). After using the user perception
survey to support development of numeric criteria for Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog (Smeltzer and
Heiskary 1990), Vermont DEC then used the survey to collect information for Vermont "inland" lakes and reservoirs
with surface areas of 20 acres or more to support nutrient criteria development for those water bodies (VDEC
2016).
How the User Perception Survey Was Implemented: Vermont DEC conducted the user perception surveys in
coordination with the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program from 1987-1991 and again from 2006-2013 (VDEC 2016).
The survey form used by the volunteer monitors consisted of part A, which asked monitors to rate the physical
condition of the lake water, and part B, which asked monitors to rate the suitability of the lake water for recreation
and aesthetic enjoyment (VDEC 2016). Ratings for part A ranged from "crystal clear water" to "severely high algae
levels," and ratings for part B ranged from "beautiful, could not be any nicer" to "swimming and aesthetic
enjoyment of the lake nearly impossible because of algae levels" (Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990). The volunteer
monitors were asked to complete a user survey form each time they measured nutrient criteria variables (TP, chl-o,
and Secchi depth) on their lake. This resulted in 5,073 individual survey responses for 87 different inland lakes
(VDEC 2016). Vermont DEC found that this large sample was necessary to ensure coherent relationships between
user responses and water quality variables (Smeltzer 2017, interview; VDEC 2016). Using volunteer lake monitors to
conduct the study meant that survey respondents did not represent a randomly chosen sample of public opinion
(Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990). Before using volunteer lake monitors, however, the state weighed both the potential
for bias as well as the benefit volunteer lake monitors may provide in criteria development through their
awareness and knowledge of the signs and effects of eutrophication (Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990).
What Was Accomplished: The lake user perception survey data have proven useful in a variety of lake
management applications in Vermont, including numeric nutrient criteria derivation, statewide lake assessments,
lake management goal setting, and wastewater discharge impact evaluation. For example, Vermont DEC used the
relationships between user perceptions and TP, chl-o, and Secchi depth measurements to derive Vermont's
nutrient criteria for inland lakes in a manner that minimized the risk of false positive and false negative use
impairment determinations (Smeltzer et al. 2016). Vermont DEC found the survey results were useful in
demonstrating to stakeholders how the phosphorus standards were derived (Smeltzer 2017, interview). Vermont
DEC also found that using volunteer monitors to implement the lake user survey had two major benefits: (1) the
volunteers collected field data, in addition to survey data, that was useful in developing nutrient criteria, and (2)
working with volunteers allowed Vermont DEC to communicate information about lake water quality to lake
residents because they were the ones participating in the survey (Smeltzer 2017, interview). Lastly, Minnesota has
used Vermont's survey questions to develop its user perception surveys, indicating that the methods are useful for
collecting information on user perceptions of aesthetics to support criteria development (Garrison and Smeltzer
1987, cited in Heiskary and Wilson 2005).
1 Environmental Protection Rule Chapter 29A, Vermont Water Quality Standards. Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
https://dec.vermont.gov/content/vermont-water-quality-standards.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 30

-------
In other cases, states could adopt the explicit language developed by other states for their surveys.
Although the survey language being adopted might not be consistent with the regulatory use of the terms
in the state adopting the language, using this approach allows for cross-state comparisons. When this
method is being used, careful consideration should be given to the goals of the survey and the anticipated
regulatory uses.
In an A/B test, users are randomly assigned to one of two groups (or variants): control (A) or treatment
(B). Based on observations collected, an overall evaluation criterion is derived for each variant and
analyzed to determine if the difference in the overall evaluation criterion between the A and B groups is
statistically significant. For example, during an aesthetic user perception survey, the control (A) group
could be shown pictures of local surface waters under existing conditions and asked whether the
waterbodies are suitable for recreational purposes. The treatment group (B) could be shown pictures of
waterbodies with lower algal growth than the control (A) group and asked the same question. If the A/B
test is designed and executed properly, statistically significant differences in the overall evaluation
criterion between the A and B groups could be used to show causality. Additional information on A/B
testing is provided in Kohavi et al. (2009).
Example lake user survey questions used by Vermont and Minnesota
A.
Please circle the one number that best describes the physical condition of the lake water today:

1. Crystal clear water.

2. Not quite crystal clear, a little algae visible.

3. Definite algal greenness, yellowness, or brownness apparent.

4. High algal levels with limited clarity and/or mild odor apparent.

5. Severely high algae levels with one or more of the following: massive floating scums on lake or

up on shore, strong foul odor, or fish kill.
B.
Please circle the one number that best describes your opinion on how suitable the lake water is for

recreation and aesthetic enjoyment today:

1. Beautiful, could not be any nicer.

2. Very minor aesthetic problems; excellent for swimming, boating, enjoyment.

3. Swimming and aesthetic enjoyment slightly impaired because of algae levels.

4. Desire to swim and level of enjoyment of the lake substantially reduced because of algae levels.

5. Swimming and aesthetic enjoyment of the lake nearly impossible because of algae levels.
Source: Smeltzer and Heiskary 1990.
It is essential that all questions be "understandable to all potential respondents" and unbiased (Vaske
2008). Pretesting the survey is critical to ensure the questions are written free of scientific or policy
jargon, in easily understood language, and are not leading or loaded. Questions should be simple, clear,
balanced, and targeted to the information the state wants respondents to provide.14 When designing
questions, it is also important to include "not applicable," "no opinion," "other," or a similar option with
the responses the participants have to choose from to avoid a nonresponse issue when analyzing the
results.
14 General guidelines on writing good survey questions can be found in Survey Research and Analysis: Applications in Parks,
Recreation and Human Dimensions (Vaske 2008, ch. 7).
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 31

-------
The choice of open- or closed-ended questions is also a significant one. Open-ended questions allow for
nuanced, qualitative insight into the user's perception of a waterbody. They can provide extra detail to
supplement what might not be captured in closed-ended questions. However, because of the infinite
choices of possible answers to open-ended questions, they can make for difficult quantitative analysis. If
open-ended questions are used, it is crucial to accurately capture respondent input, so having audio
recording can be helpful. It is important, however, to check to make sure what is legally allowed, and IRB
input could be useful on this topic.
Closed-ended questions allow for easier statistical analysis of answers and can be more directly and
simply used to derive quantitative criteria. Most surveys reviewed for this paper used closed-ended
questions. Examples of closed-ended questions that can be useful for nuanced responses in water quality
user perception surveys include a Likert scale and a rating scale, in which response to a question can be
given on a graded scale (e.g., none, low, medium, or high algae cover).
3.8.2.1 Picture selection
We heard from several interviewees that photographs are a powerful tool for demonstrating the effects of
different levels of nutrient pollution. For surveys that include images, the selection process for the
photographs used is vitally important. Factors such as type of water quality factor represented, gradations
of water quality shown in photos, photo quality, and standardization of photos can have large impacts on
how water quality is perceived.
Photographs have to be carefully selected to be representative of a particular level of water quality
(surveys that used images tended to focus on chl-a level) and at intervals at which there are discernible
visual differences in the water quality variable for which the state has data. This means that with each
photograph it is critical to have the associated field-derived measurements of the variables of interest,
such as chl-a concentration or benthic algal biomass, to be able to determine gradations. One state that
used an image-based survey had access to a large collection of waterbody photographs of known benthic
chl-a concentrations. The survey development team selected eight pictures that were approximately 50
mg/m2 chl-a apart and had similar perspectives and lighting (Suplee et al. 2009).
Another state used the same images for its image-based survey because of time constraints. While the
photographs were sufficiently similar to the second state's own rivers, one representative of that state
noted, "I wish we had more time. I would have insisted we had taken an extra year, if necessary, to get a
photographer to make sure we had comparable photos, except for the variable [of interest]" to ensure the
photographs were truly representative of the state's waterbodies.
A few interviewees identified various factors to consider when using image-based surveys. For example,
it is crucial, although sometimes difficult, to standardize photographs in image-based surveys to minimize
extraneous variables that are not directly related to nutrient pollution, but can impact user perception
(Brown and Daniel 1991; Daniel and Vining 1983; Suplee et al. 2009). Following are some details to
which to pay specific attention in each photograph and among the group of photographs used:
•	Presence of background vegetation
•	Presence of agriculture operations
•	Proximity to urban settings
•	Presence of litter
•	Presence of fish or wildlife
•	Quality and consistency of ambient light
•	Color and hue of photographs
•	Angle from which photographs are taken
•	Flow level
•	Water clarity
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 32

-------
Case Study: Montana's User Perception Survey
Background/Environmental Question: Since 1955, the list of beneficial uses for Montana's streams has
included public water supply, wildlife, fish and aquatic life, agriculture, and recreation (Suplee et al. 2008;
ARM 17.30.601 et seq.).1 In some parts of Montana (mainly in western regions), the most sensitive of these
uses has been identified as recreation (Suplee et al. 2008). In wadeable rivers and streams, one way that the
recreational uses and aesthetics can be impacted is by excess algal growth. It has been suggested that in
excess of 100 to 150 mg chl-o/m2 might constitute a nuisance (Horner et al. 1983, cited in Suplee et al. 2009;
Welch et al. 1988, cited in Suplee et al. 2009); however, field validation was needed to determine what is
considered a nuisance algae level to the public (Horner et al. 1983, cited in Suplee et al. 2009). The Montana
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) set out to find an answer to the question: "What is too green for
the public?" (Suplee 2017, interview).
Why this Approach Was Taken: In support of nutrient water quality standards development, Montana DEQ
conducted a public opinion survey in 2006 to determine the level of benthic algae in wadeable rivers and
streams that a majority of those surveyed considered undesirable for recreation (Suplee et al. 2009). The
department used photographs of stream algae at different density levels in the survey to convey the
environmental conditions that influence a person's perception of waterbody quality, or "key components,"
needed for participants to identify the levels of algae they would consider undesirable (Suplee et al. 2009).
Montana DEQ selected two survey populations: the general public and on-river recreators (Suplee et al.
2009). The two populations were considered to be of equal importance because members of the general
public are impacted directly by water quality standards, and recreators are most familiar with the water
bodies since they use them. Montana DEQ also reasoned that recreators would provide the most accurate
and consistent results (Suplee 2017, interview).
How the User Perception Survey Was Implemented: A by-mail survey of the general public was conducted
by sending forms to 2,000 individuals randomly selected from Montana's Centralized Voter File (Suplee et al.
2009). An on-river survey of recreators was carried out in person at wadeable rivers and streams throughout
Montana that had been selected based on known, statewide recreational use patterns (Suplee et al. 2009).
Recreators at these wadeable rivers and streams included both residents and nonresidents. The mail and on-
river surveys consisted of the same eight randomly ordered photographs of Montana rivers and streams,
each depicting a different algae level ranging from less than 50 to 1,276 mg chl-o/m2, staggered by
approximately 50 mg chl-o/m2 (Suplee et al. 2009). This concentration range was selected to cover the
maximum range of benthic algae generally measured in Montana rivers and streams, and staggered with
sufficient differences in algal density to permit visual distinction between photographs (Suplee et al. 2009).
Montana DEQ tested the survey form and photograph sequence using generally accepted public opinion
survey techniques (Suplee et al. 2009).
What Was Accomplished: In both the mail and on-river surveys, as benthic algal chl-o levels increased,
desirability for recreation decreased (Suplee et al. 2009). Mean levels less than or equal to 150 mg chl-o/m2
were found to be desirable by both survey populations (Suplee et al. 2009). Data analysis revealed no major
differences in how the different survey populations perceived the amount of algae with regard to desirability
for recreation. After implementing the survey, Montana DEQ had the information it needed to determine the
amount of algae acceptable to the public, which allowed them to develop state water quality standards.
The survey results have been useful for communicating to stakeholders and the public how algae levels affect
different beneficial uses and how the water quality standards were derived. Utah has also used Montana's
methods to develop its standards, indicating that the methods are accepted by the scientific and
management community and that the derived threshold is logical for recreational uses and aesthetics in
western states. The recreational community was also generally pleased that Montana DEQ implemented
these surveys in an effort to protect their waters, and the regulated community has not challenged the
survey results (Suplee 2017, interview).
'ARM (Administrative Rules of Montana) 17.30.601 etseq. http://www.mtrules.org/gateway/Subchapterhome.asp?scn=17%2E30%2E6.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 33

-------
An additional factor to note is that image-based surveys do not capture all of the subtle environmental
factors that cannot be transmitted visually (e.g., odor).
The state might also consider how it wants to account for possible visual variation in the aesthetic condition
it is trying to portray. For example, there can be natural variation from lake to lake in how a chl-a level of 10
(.ig/L appears, depending on algae type, the distribution of algae within the water column (dots versus
overall greenness), and other site-specific characteristics. To address this sort of variation, the state can
decide to show the survey respondent the visual condition typical of 10 j^ig/L chl-a or, if it wishes to show
different variations, it could present different conditions to assess differences in user response.
Aware of these concerns, one interviewee stated, "I agree there are inherent issues and bias in using
photos. On the other hand, we're asking questions about visual interpretation of something, so we have to
find some mechanism to include photos people can respond to in order to get some gauge [of their
perceptions]."
There are different ways to convey images in image-based surveys. Montana presented the photographs in
a random order and asked survey respondents to consider each photograph independently. Respondents
were asked "if the algae level was desirable or undesirable relative to his or her major form of river and
stream recreation" (Suplee et al. 2009). West Virginia presented to respondents an online survey with a
random photograph, and respondents were asked verbally over a scheduled telephone call if a picture
depicted conditions that were acceptable or unacceptable. Respondents were directed to the next highest
level of algae cover and asked about its acceptability, moving up until they found the level that was
unacceptable (or until the highest level was reached). Conversely, if they found the first photograph to
which they were directed unacceptable, they moved down in algae coverage levels until they found the
level that was acceptable (or until the lowest level was reached). In this way, the survey recorded the
highest level of algae cover that respondents felt was acceptable (RM 2012).
Utah provided images as a frame of reference for respondents, and asked individuals to compare the
images to their own experiences (UDEQ 2011). In the context of using a user perception survey for
criteria development, this question could be followed up with a question asking the user's willingness to
recreate in the waters pictured.
3.3.2 /ond photographs
It is possible that future surveys could use means other than photographs to convey varying levels of
water quality, such as video- or computer-generated images. If these other means are used, it is important
that the survey design team carefully calibrate them, as they would for photographs, controlling other
variables as much as possible.
There is some evidence that a nonstatic image is more sensitively perceived than a static image of the
same scene (Hetherington et al. 1993). More thought and effort would be needed to control for different
variables such as sound and other visual stimuli.
3.3.2 Miliary respondent data
The more data a state can collect about the survey respondents, the more types of analyses (e.g., cross-
tabulations, analysis of variance, bivariate correlation and regression, and logistic regression) the team
can conduct on the survey results. This supplemental information is separate from the survey questions
related to water quality and includes personal data about individual respondents. One interviewee noted
that collecting this extra data, which is seemingly unrelated to a respondent's water recreation habits, can
be helpful when performing various analyses.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 34

-------
Utah's User Perception Question
Which of the following algae conditions did you usually see in late summer at this river?
a.	Present algae are brownish green and short
b.	Present algae are dark green and long
c.	Algae are not present
d.	Cannot see river bottom
e.	Don't know
Source: UDEQ2011.
Examples of auxiliary respondent data include age, sex/gender, address, marital status, race or ethnicity,
education, income, religion, and other demographic information (USEPA 2003). Other useful information
could include amount and type of participation in water-related activities, previous experience with water
quality sampling or water quality issues, and location of interview. Some of these data are self-reported
and included in the actual survey. Others are metadata and can be gleaned from ZIP codes (from mail
surveys) or membership lists of different groups (from the mailing list of a known subgroup).
Collecting increasingly detailed information about respondents comes with some considerations that
should be examined. Applicable laws and protections should be followed to protect respondent privacy,
especially if any personally identifiable information is associated with respondent replies (it is generally
easier and recommended that surveys are strictly anonymous). Additionally, there is a possibility that, as
the detail of information being collected about respondents increases, they may become increasingly
unwilling to participate or will skip certain questions, leading to nonresponse biases. Predesign research
and pilot testing can help determine the appropnate types and amount of data to collect.
33.3 Pre-implementation testing
Although time constraints can be a concern during survey development, it is important to pretest surveys
using focus groups to minimize survey error. Conducting a pretest or pilot is strongly recommended for
new surveys as it helps refine the survey and identify any issues or problems that could affect responses. It is
useful to pilot surveys both internally and externally as well as at the locations at which and in the manner in
which they will ultimately be delivered. The state could leverage focus groups to pretest survey questions as
well as images if an image-based survey is being used. A state could also conduct a full pilot of the survey
on a small portion of the full survey population. The actual number of people used for the pilot will vary
depending on time, resources, and feasibility, but the state should not be overly concerned with obtaining a
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 35

-------
large number. By watching individuals complete the survey during pre-implementation testing, researchers
can also identify issues that could cause low response rate, skipped questions, and abandoned surveys
(Vaske 2008).
Focus groups are useful tools through which to engage specific user or stakeholder groups. Focus groups
convene a small number of individuals from a population of interest for a moderated discussion or direct
questioning related to the survey. Generally, the survey team selects several relatively homogeneous
groups of six to 12 participants from subgroups (e.g., anglers, swimmers, boaters) of the population of
interest to participate in a focus group. The moderator focuses the participants on a few topics of special
interest to the survey team (USEPA 2003).
Focus groups often help the survey team identify problems with the survey that might not be found
otherwise. They also help identify the experiences of the selected segments of the population of interest,
identify key concepts, help phrase questions so that they will be clear to all potential respondents, and
evaluate drafts of survey questionnaires (USEPA 2003). One interviewee's state used focus groups to
pretest the survey once it was initially designed and to retest it once it had been redesigned. This
interviewee noted that the state "should have had some additional focus groups of random members of the
public with directly affected stakeholders." Focus groups can also provide the state with valuable
qualitative data to supplement quantitative data, but should not be used as a substitute for surveys as the
results cannot be generalized to a larger population (Vaske 2008).
Keep in mind that focus groups cost time and money. For example, the state might wish to hire a
professional facilitator to run the focus groups and direct the discussions if there is a need for neutrality or
political complexity is involved with conducting a survey or developing nutrient criteria. In addition to
the cost of running a meeting, the interviewee that used focus groups noted that participants received a
small stipend to encourage participation. Focus groups take time to plan and run so the survey team
should consider this when planning the overall survey development schedule.
3.3.4 Communication
As noted previously, stakeholder engagement and communicating the survey and survey results are
integral elements to achieving buy-in and understanding of the process at the stakeholder and community
level.
When developing a communication strategy around a survey, the state should determine the following:
•	The target audience (see sections 3.2.2-3.2.3 for more information)
•	At what stage in the process it will communicate
•	How frequently it will communicate
•	How it will communicate
The state could, for example, communicate to the following groups:
•	The general public
•	Survey respondents
•	Specific user and stakeholder groups
•	Policy-makers and legislators
Different audiences will require different levels and types of communication. To notify the general public,
the state could use traditional and social media outlets to communicate information about an upcoming
survey. This can increase the validity of the survey in the public's eyes and improve survey response rates
(Vaske 2008). Additionally, the state can communicate with key user and stakeholder groups prior to
releasing the survey, as described in section 3.2.2 of this paper, to increase buy-in to the survey process
and request help to implement the survey if necessary (e.g., access to members' contact information).
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 36

-------
While the survey is being conducted, the state can communicate with survey respondents multiple times.
Doing so can greatly increase response rates (see section 3.3.1 for more information).
The state might also wish to follow up with survey respondents following their participation and after the
completion of the overall survey process. If the survey is not conducted in-person, the state should, as
good practice, follow up with a thank you/reminder note using the same method through which the survey
was initially distributed (e.g., email or mail). This is an effective way to keep individuals engaged as well
as to potentially solicit additional survey responses.
Follow-up communication can also be a means for the state to convey updates to the general public on the
survey process, results of the survey, and how the survey is being used to inform the development of
nutrient criteria. Follow-up could also be an avenue for public outreach and keeping in contact with an
interested population.
After survey completion, the state will want to communicate the results to multiple audiences, including
some that might not be receptive. One interviewee indicated receiving pushback to the idea of the validity
of a social science survey from certain stakeholder groups with technical and scientific backgrounds (e.g.,
engineers). The state should consider its audience and anticipate any potential stakeholder challenges to
the survey process and the survey results so that it is prepared to defend them. The state might also want
to communicate the survey results to the respondents directly to keep them engaged and interested.
3.4 Analyzing Survey Results
If at all possible, the state should determine what types of analyses to conduct on the results prior to
designing the actual survey. As a rule, any analysis conducted should be appropriate to the data. Different
types of analyses require different types and amounts of data from the respondents and different sample
sizes. This section lays out a general guide to the range of possible analyses that states can undertake.
Generally, higher levels of analysis require more data and variables, but have the benefit of adding
increasing levels of precision to the survey results. If a state would like to perform higher level analyses,
it should factor that in during the design phase when determining what additional data, such as
background sociodemographic variables (e.g., socioeconomic information, race/ethnicity, education level)
or content-specific variables (e.g., attitudes toward pollution, attitudes toward recreation), to collect from
survey respondents. Also, during the design phase, it is helpful to consider using closed-ended questions
to help analyze the data. For example, provide options when asking about race, or provide a gradient of
choices using a Likert scale or similar rating scale when assessing attitudes.
As described in section 3.2 of this primer, the survey team generally determines the desired level of
statistical significance and margin of error and develops a sampling plan before conducting the study.
This sampling plan should include the analytical plan, part of which takes in to account anticipated
response rate and the make-up of those responses, as well as estimation procedures that could be used if
the response rate or response composition is not met after the survey is completed. The primary method
for checking for nonresponse errors is conducting a nonresponse bias check. These checks are primarily
implemented by following up with a subset of the sample population that did not respond to the survey. If
the results from the nonrespondents are similar to the population of those who did respond, then the
survey analyst could use reweighting factors or duplicate values reported by the sampled units to
compensate for the nonresponses (USEPA 2003; Vaske 2008).
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 37

-------
Case Study: West Virginia's User Perception Survey
Background/Environmental Question: West Virginia's water quality standards mandate that algal blooms or
bacterial concentrations that might impair or interfere with the designated uses of the affected waters are not
allowed in any waters of the state (47 CSR 2).1 At a minimum, all West Virginia waters are designated for
propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life and for water contact recreation. When
concentrations of nutrients are high, normal background levels of algae can grow into excessive blooms that
interfere with the designated uses of a water body, including water contact recreation and public water supply
(WV DEP 2017). As part of its effort to determine whether designated uses of West Virginia's surface waters are
being impacted by algae levels, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) set out to find an
answer to the question: "What is the public's tolerance to various amounts of algae in West Virginia's streams and
rivers?" (Summers 2017, interview; WV DEP 2017).
Why this Approach Was Taken: West Virginia DEP commissioned a user perception survey to determine West
Virginia residents' tolerance of algae levels in the state's streams and waterways, and to evaluate the impact of
algae levels on public recreational use. Seven photographs were selected to be used in the survey, showing
various levels of algae cover, ranging from 4 to 65 percent, to assess each respondent's acceptance threshold for
algae (RM 2012). West Virginia DEP reasoned that the general public was directly impacted by algae in West
Virginia's surface waters; therefore, a random sample of state residents was selected from the West Virginia voter
registration list as the population for the user perception survey. The survey was pretested before being
implemented to ensure proper wording, flow, and logic (RM 2012; Summers 2017, interview).
How the User Perception Survey Was Implemented: In February and March 2012, West Virginia DEP engaged a
contractor to conduct the user perception survey of West Virginia residents of at least 18 years of age.
Respondents were initially contacted by telephone. If they agreed to participate in the survey, they were
instructed to access a website that showed the preselected photographs of algae cover. If participants were not
able to access the internet, they were mailed a printed packet. When participants were able to access the
photographs, whether online or in printed form, they were interviewed over the phone to complete the survey.
Respondents were assigned a random image as a starting point and asked to indicate if the level of algae cover
shown was acceptable or unacceptable to them. If the first randomly selected image was deemed unacceptable,
the respondent was shown the view of the next lowest level of algae cover, continuing to be shown lower algae
cover levels until either an acceptable level or the lowest cover level was reached. If the first randomly selected
image was deemed acceptable, the respondent was shown the next highest level of algae cover, continuing to be
shown higher algae cover levels until either an unacceptable level was found or the highest cover level was
reached. Respondents were also asked about their participation in aquatic recreational activities and their overall
opinion of the amount of algae in West Virginia waters. Interviewers who performed the surveys were trained
according to standards developed by the Council of American Survey Research Organizations. Also, a central
polling site was set up to ensure that interviews were performed correctly (RM 2012).
What Was Accomplished: The results of the survey indicated that the majority of West Virginia residents would
consider waters with more than 25 percent algal coverage to be unacceptable. Cross-tabulations of tolerance
levels by age, gender, and participation in various activities were used to examine differences in tolerance of
various levels of algae. Groups that demonstrated a lower tolerance for algae included older respondents,
females, and those who had not participated in activities on or in West Virginia waters (RM 2012).
West Virginia DEP realized several positive outcomes from conducting the survey. Survey participants appreciated
being asked their opinions about algae levels they found acceptable in surface waters. West Virginia DEP also
found the survey results to be useful for communicating to the public about how the threshold for acceptable
algae levels was derived. Additionally, the survey results provided West Virginia DEP with credible results for use
in obtaining legislative and community buy-in and support to move forward with restoring surface waters with
designated uses impacted by algae. West Virginia DEP has received only positive feedback about the user
perception survey (Summers 2017, interview).
1 Title 47 Code of State Rules (CSR) Series 2, Requirements Governing Water Quality Standards, West Virginia Department of Environmental
Protection, https://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 38

-------
Descriptive statistical analyses can be performed for all survey results to determine the distributional
characteristics of the variables in the survey. These include calculations that determine a variable's central
tendency (mean, median, mode) and dispersion (standard deviation, variance). It can also be useful to
look at the frequency distribution and the shape of that distribution. These descriptive statistics can help
determine what further types of statistical techniques are most appropriate for the data (Vaske 2008).
Additional analyses, such as cross-tabulations, chi-square ort-tests, and different types of regression
analyses can allow for further comparisons across variables and groups. Because categorical and ordinal
data are common to surveys, special consideration should be given to the statistical methods used to
analyze the various data collected.
When analyzing the survey results, the state should consider the temporal variability and timescales
associated with the survey. As with discrete chemical or biological measurements, user perception
measurements in survey results can vary overtime as the water quality constituents (e.g., suspended
sediment) and factors (e.g., seasonal changes in sunlight) that affect visual perception vary overtime.
Variation over time in the primary producer community's response to nutrients (i.e., uptake, cell division,
and accumulation of biomass), which can occur on intra-annual and interannual timescales, can also
contribute variability to visual perceptions. Users' perceptions and opinions about the aquatic resource could
also change over time. For example, how users perceive water quality in a given waterbody could vary over
time as a result of changes to water quality in other waterbodies that have shaped users' expectations.
Changes in user demographics and the associated population's values could also change how a water is
perceived. User perceptions could also simply differ over time because the water quality in the waterbody
itself has changed overtime, resulting in a revision of earlier expectations. Additionally, users could
become more educated regarding water quality, causing their perception of a waterbody to change.
Recognizing and accounting for these forms of variability during survey analysis can aid in characterizing
and communicating survey results.
One interviewee recommended that states work closely with experts in survey research and statistics to
determine the types of analyses required prior to designing the survey. Then, based on expert feedback,
design the survey to collect the data needed for those analyses. Many state universities have statistics
experts who may be able to provide assistance.
After analyzing the data and developing a target for user-perceived water quality for the protection of
aesthetic and/or recreational designated uses, the state could then apply the target for developing numeric
nutrient criteria. To do so, the state would analyze observed nutrient data and response data for the
assessment endpoint and compare the result to the survey developed target. EPA has detailed in several
guides the criteria development process using targets such as those developed using user perception
surveys (USEPA 2000a, 2000b, 2001b).
A conceptual model for analyzing user perception survey results is provided in Figure 6.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 39

-------
r

1. Compile Data

Bias Analysis


~ 2. Analyze


3. Communicate
Results
QA/QC	Descriptive Statistics
Figure 6. Conceptual model for analysis of user perception survey results
Shown in Figure 6 are steps a state could perform, as described in more detail below and in the section
above, to analyze user perception survey results.
1.	Compile data.
Ensure QA/QC of data entry and analyses.
2.	Analyze data.
Identify sources of bias and adjust to minimize their influence.
Develop descriptive statistics.
3.	Present analysis and communicate results.
4.0	Ensuring Rigor in the Survey Process and Results
4.1	Quality Assurance/Quality Control
To ensure the quality of results generated from user perception surveys, a state should consider designing
and implementing its survey in accordance with the following documents:
•	EPA's Survey Management Handbook (USEPA 2003)
•	A state QA project plan (QAPP) for survey development and implementation (if available)
•	A state standard operating procedure (SOP) for conducting surveys (if available)
During the survey planning stage, it is useful for the state to define DQOs for the user perception survey
on the basis of the resources available and project goals, and in accordance with EPA's technical planning
process defined in Guidance on Systematic Planning Using the Data Quality Objectives Process, EPA
OA G-4 (USEPA 2006). The DQO process includes identifying the quality and quantity of information
required to make specific project decisions, regardless of scale. The DQO process includes defining not
only the decisions, but also the tolerance for error in the decisions and, subsequently, the performance
objectives for the data collection.
If a QAPP that covers survey design and development is not available for the state, the state will benefit
from developing a QAPP in accordance with the specifications for format and content in Requirements
for Quality Assurance Project Plans, EPA OA R-5 (USEPA 2001a) and Guidance for Quality Assurance
Project Plans, EPA OA G-5 (USEPA 2002). In addition, it is recommended that a state develop an SOP
for conducting surveys following EPA's Guidance for Preparing Standard Operating Procedures
(SOPs), EPA OA G-6 (USEPA 2007); following the SOP will help ensure that surveys are conducted
consistently and correctly.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 40

-------
QC has been addressed in several subsections of section 3.2 and 3.3, including survey error, sample size,
pre-implementation testing, and picture selection. States should consider QC at all steps of survey design
and implementation. An expert on survey methodology can help identify these considerations and support
development of DQOs, a sampling plan for conducting surveys, and a QAPP for survey development and
implementation.
Following are some examples of QC checks that should be employed during survey implementation and
survey data processing, but this is by no means a complete list:
•	Coordinate and control field work.
•	Perform a nonresponse check to determine if nonrespondents are significantly different from
those who responded to the survey.
•	Review and edit questionnaires.
•	Double-check tabulation calculations.
4.2 Maximizing Technical Rigor
Ensuring rigor in the survey process, data analysis, and results has been an important thread throughout
this paper. Options have been identified that should increase the strength of a survey throughout the
process, including hiring outside experts to help with the design and analysis, engaging stakeholder
groups early, and targeting key user groups in the survey. The following highlights note important
practices that could help ensure a high-quality survey process and product:
•	If the state does not have sufficient in-house expertise, outsource all or part of the survey process
to a third-party consultant with a good reputation and acknowledged expertise in the area. An
academic institution could be considered.
•	If the state decides to conduct the survey itself, consulting outside experts is still recommended to
ensure that the most up-to-date and relevant techniques are used in the process.
•	If conducting one-on-one interviews or leading a focus group, engage a neutral party to serve as
the interviewer to avoid potential response bias.
•	Seek IRB approval of survey methodology; an academic or research institution would know if
involving an IRB is appropriate and, if so, which IRB the state should approach. An IRB can
provide meaningful and useful input to help the survey process run smoothly. Sufficient time
should be allotted to allow IRB review.
•	Adopt a blended methodology, if possible, with a mix of on-site interviews, email, and mail.
As mentioned earlier, it is vitally important that the state and the survey team continually report and
document the survey process from problem formulation through implementation and analysis, laying out
the rationale for key decisions. This record provides a cross reference for QC and an administrative record
that can help defend the survey process against challenges.
5.0 Survey Design Scenarios
Through the literature review and interviews used to inform this primer, three general scenarios—
Scenarios 1, 2, and 3, below—and corresponding levels of effort were identified for completing a user
perception survey for nutrient criteria development. Each of these three scenarios is suited for a particular
set of circumstances that are determined by a state's needs, resources, and level of precision needed in the
survey responses. These scenarios present general options, representing the range of activities that states
could adopt. The scenarios, if properly applied and consistent with the intended survey objective(s),
represent defensible approaches for developing user perception surveys for nutrient criteria development.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 41

-------
However, these scenarios are presented as general examples, recognizing that the set of circumstances in
each survey can be unique. The is no single recommended approach for all states because each state has
its own unique challenges and opportunities that will determine the best approach. It is recommended that
states interested in surveys consider their specific situation to determine the approach that best meets their
needs. Individuals experienced in survey design can help answer questions on how unique aspects of a
state's situation affect their survey design. Detailed best practices information for each survey component
are included in sections 3.0 and 4.0. This section provides a description of some key considerations that
might affect how a state designs a user perception survey and a description of the three general scenarios.
5.1 Examples of Considerations when Designir	jy
Below are examples of four considerations (existing data, existing program or stakeholder groups, funding,
survey error) that might serve as a foundation for a state in designing a user perception survey. Each of the
key criteria has been selected because it can create or identify existing constraints that limit the options
available for conducting the survey. Each key consideration is elaborated on in the scenarios below.
5.1.1	Existing data
The existing data the state has for the waterbodies included in the potential survey.
Existing data can include current and historical water quality data, survey population information, and
other chemical, physical, and biological data. Ideally, existing data sources used in designing a user
perception survey will be peer-reviewed journal articles or assessments prepared by EPA, other federal
entities (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), or state or
local assessments (or assessments prepared under EPA or state guidance) for which project-specific
QAPPs, sampling plans, or similar documentation describing site-specific sampling and analyses are
available. Existing data can also include photographs with relevant metadata such as source, date, time,
location, and associated nutrient sample data. Some data, such as population information and water
quality data, are required to conduct any user perception survey of water quality, while other data (e.g.,
respondent age, sex, address, marital status, ethnicity, education, and income; how frequently a
respondent visits a particular waterbody and purpose of visits [e.g., fishing, swimming]) open up
opportunities for more robust survey approaches. The survey team should take into consideration any
apparent inconsistencies or limitations of the existing data before using them.
5.1.2	Existing progr stakeholder groups
Information about the population, including population subsets of key stakeholders or previously engaged
participants.
Population data help to determine the appropriate sample size and select a target response rate.
Information on population subsets and key stakeholders is vitally important, particularly if one or more of
the groups could potentially challenge the survey results or any resulting policy outcomes. Previously
engaged participants might also be more perceptive than the general public and are not necessarily
representative of the greater population.
This information also creates space for states who want to "go above and beyond" to realize indirect
benefits to the survey process. Engaging key stakeholder and recreational user groups, in addition to the
general public, early in the design process can develop and enhance buy-in to the process and the results,
increase visibility of the process, improve response rates, and provide additional benefits.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 42

-------
5.13 Funding
The availability of funding to support survey design, implementation, and analysis.
The importance of funding availability in selecting and customizing a survey scenario cannot be
downplayed. The three scenarios cover a range of price points and have different levels of staff resource
needs.
5.1.4 Survey error
The consideration of error in survey design and how to best minimize total error within given time and
resource constraints.
A state should determine what level of total survey error it is willing to accept when developing a survey.
Generally, the lower the survey error rate, the greater the amount of resources—time, energy, and money—
required to achieve it. Surveys can also be designed to directly address a particular survey error concern.
5.2 Scenario 1
This scenario is most suited for states with sufficient resources or that have unique issues such that
leveraging similar surveys from nearby states is not practical or appropriate. The state also has funding to
engage experts in survey methodology, statistical analysis, and stakeholder engagement.
5.2.1	Design
The survey is designed through a rigorous process. The team conducts preliminary work to identify
specific survey needs and objectives, including response rate, target rate of statistical significance (e.g.,
95 percent), and project timeline. In addition, the state engages key stakeholder groups early and often
throughout the initiative.
5.2.2	Method
The survey is designed as a photo-based survey. Images have metadata on nutrient levels sampled at the
time and location of the image. Photos are selected with appropriate variation in nutrient levels and
consistency in waterbody presentation. The photos are tested with informed and lay audiences. Once the
survey is designed, the state convenes focus groups of random members of the public to test out the
survey questions and images. The survey team incorporates feedback, revises the survey, and retests it.
5.2.3	Delivery
The survey is delivered via mail, digitally, and in person. Using voter registration lists, surveys are
distributed to a random sample of the population. Recipients have the option of responding with a mail-in
form or by using an online form. Surveyors visit waterbodies to conduct in-person surveys with members
of the public recreating on, in, or near the waterbodies. Key stakeholder groups are engaged to collaborate
on survey distribution. The survey is conducted during a predetermined timeframe during the season(s)
with the highest levels of recreational activity.
5.2.4	Analysis
Once the survey responses are collected, independent experts experienced in survey statistics analyze the
results, comparing the responses within and across the delivery methods. Response analysis includes a
detailed assessment of the survey respondents, identifying and adjusting for bias for each delivery method
and across all survey responses.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 43

-------
5.2.5 Synopsis
This scenario requires more resources than the other scenarios. The careful design and testing process,
including stakeholder engagement, allows the team to identify challenges early and incorporate them into
survey design. The mixed-mode framework incorporating multiple survey delivery methods increases
overall response rate, while providing more data to identify and adjust for potential bias. Independent
analysis of survey results can be helpful to ensure unbiased interpretation of the results. The entire survey
process purposefully works to minimize total survey error.
5.3 Scenario 2
This scenario involves a state that determines it would like to evaluate whether narrative nutrient criteria
are being met and eventually develop aesthetic-based numeric nutrient criteria, but does not have an
immediate need to develop those numeric nutrient criteria. While it has some resources, the state does not
want to spend a lot of money or staff time designing and implementing a user perception survey. Instead,
the state decides to leverage its ongoing volunteer monitoring and sampling program, using surveys to
query volunteers' perceptions during their normal monitoring activities.
5.3.1	Design
The volunteer program has been in place for many years and has a group of dedicated volunteers who live
on various waterbodies around the state and take water samples. It would be relatively easy to add a short
survey to the samplers' routine out in the field. Such an approach to user perception surveys is very low
cost and easy to implement, and all survey results are directly linked to water quality data taken at the
same time as the survey. It is also a potential tool to collect data over years or even decades, which allows
the state to track historic trends.
5.3.2	Method
The state drafts a survey inquiring about the respondents' perception of aesthetics of the waterbody and/or
their desire to recreate in the waterbody. The state develops detailed instructions for how volunteers
should respond in the course of their related activities. Pending resources, the state tests the detailed
instructions and survey format with a small group of volunteers.
5.3.3	Delivery
The state distributes surveys to its volunteer group(s), including detailed instructions for completing the
survey. Where appropriate, the state provides in-person briefings to volunteer groups on how to
participate in the survey. The survey is carried out by the monitoring volunteers before they take their
typical samples and measurements. The volunteers submit their answers to program authorities regularly
as part of their annual volunteer program activities.
53.4 Analysis
After approximately 3 years of collecting the survey data, the state determines it has collected enough
survey data to begin evaluating whether narrative nutrient criteria are being met and to support the
development of numeric nutrient criteria. It chooses to analyze the results using in-house resources. The
state chooses to collect additional years of data to potentially highlight volunteer transitions as the
respondent group changes composition. Analysis can become complicated as staff correlate each user
perception survey response with the water quality data captured by the respondents over time. The state
uses its findings to determine whether narrative nutrient criteria are being met and to support the
development of numeric nutrient criteria.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 44

-------
5.3.5 Synopsis
Scenario 2 carries a higher risk than Scenario 1 for coverage and nonresponse error since the state only
collects survey data from a specific subgroup with a known interest in water quality. This subgroup may
also have greater sensitivity to changes in water quality than the general public because of training and
expertise related to their sampling practices.15 The user perception data is directly correlated with water
quality data, which could be useful for developing numeric nutrient criteria, but the volunteer perception
data also might complicate analyses since these users are probably not representative of the general
population. This scenario has a lower level of effort and presumably lower costs. It also allows ongoing
information collection, providing an opportunity to analyze trends in perception over time. Such an
approach is better for states that want to leverage their ongoing volunteer monitoring and sampling
programs.
5.4 Scenario 3
In the third scenario, a state needs to set numeric nutrient criteria. The state, however, does not have the
resources necessary to design and implement its own survey. Two nearby states have recently set the
same numeric nutrient criteria based on intensive user perception survey processes that incorporated most
or all of the aspects of the approach in Scenario 1. The state in question leverages the survey experience
of the nearby states to streamline their survey process.
5.4.1	Design
The state determines how best to apply the other states' criteria to its own circumstances after examining
its unique natural resource make-up (compared to the other states). The state also decides to use feedback
from stakeholders to gauge their thoughts on applying the criteria in their state. Additionally, the state
compares its own designated uses with those of the other states to ensure criteria are compatible.
5.4.2	Method
The state first determines the similarity of the waterbodies of interest and the communities surveyed in the
other states to those in its own state. It then examines the survey design and assumptions to ensure they
are relevant to the its own situation.
5.4.3	Delivery
If it finds that its own situation is similar to those of the other two states, the state adopts the same
nutrient criteria as those states. Under this scenario, delivery of a survey would not be needed. However,
sharing the survey through outreach to the public, and possibly particular stakeholder groups, to
familiarize them with the details of the survey used in the other states is found to be helpful for buy-in.
5.4.4	Analysis
Although no direct analysis of data is needed, the state reviews the analyses done by the other states. This
helps to ensure that the analyses done by those states address the same need and same question(s) as it is
interested in.
15 Additional information outlining state experiences with bias between pre-interested respondents and the general public is
included in section 3.2 of this primer.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 45

-------
5.4.5 Synopsis
Scenario 3's approach has a higher risk for survey coverage error than Scenario 1, but also costs
significantly less. It would be ideal to leverage the effort and resources already used by the other two
states, as long as the designated uses, populations, and waterbodies of interest are similar enough. If the
context of the survey carried out in another state is vastly different, the applicability of adopting the same
numeric nutrient criteria decreases. In addition to taking on the total survey error that is present in the
surveys conducted in the other states, this approach also carries significant risk of coverage errors if the
populations in the states significantly differ. If the state adequately tests and accounts for this, however,
the risks can be decreased.
The state could undertake additional actions to decrease the survey errors associated with this scenario. It
could use a targeted approach to reach out to specific stakeholder or user groups to assess their
perceptions. It could undertake outreach through either user groups or small-scale surveys to make sure
that the proposed numeric nutrient criteria are in line with individual perceptions and to get buy-in for the
criteria. The state would then internally determine how best to address and incorporate stakeholder
comments and concerns (if any). If there are no major issues, the state has increased the robustness of
fully adopting the same numeric nutrient criteria as its neighbors. The state can further fend off potential
challenges by getting buy-in from key groups.
5.5 Summary of Survey Design Considerations
A summary of possible survey scenarios described in this primer with corresponding information on
relative precision and resource needs is presented in Table 3.
Table 3. Summary of possible survey scenarios
Scenario
Precision
Resource Need
Volunteer sampling program
Low
Low
Survey of key user and stakeholder groups
Medium-High
Medium
Survey of user groups and a general population survey
High
High
General population survey
Medium
Medium-High
Copy another state
Medium-Low
Low
Copy another state and use targeted surveys
Medium-High
Low-Medium
Note: The scale of precision and resource needs is only a general relative estimate. The actual level will depend on the survey design
and implementation plan adopted by the state.
Table 4 summarizes different options when conducting a survey, along with the relative cost, staff time,
and notes on design considerations.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 46

-------
Table 4. Survey design option considerations
Survey Design Option Consideration
Cost
Staff Time
Notes
Expertise



Engage outside experts to help design and
implement the survey and analyze the results
$$$$
ฎ
Increases robustness greatly
Contract with a stakeholder engagement expert
to identify key user and stakeholder groups, and
facilitate focus groups
$$
ฎ
Increases robustness
Presurvey



Engage with key stakeholders to get input and
buy-in for the survey design and methodology
$
0ฎ
Increases robustness
Pretest survey with focus groups
$$
0ฎ
Increases robustness
Survey Options16



Mail survey
$

Low response rate; follow-up mailings
are a good practice
On-site in-person surveys
$$
ffiffiffi
High response rate
Online survey to targeted user groups
$
ฎ

Survey of a volunteer sampling group
$
ฎ
Nearly 100% response rate; high risk
for coverage error
Mixed or blended approach
$-$$$$
ฎ - 00ฎ
Cost and staffing needs will depend on
the ultimate survey mode(s) chosen
A user perception survey can be expensive, and states may not have the resources necessary to conduct a
full survey using the best practices of survey design. It is a best practice for a state to conduct a smaller
survey well rather than attempting to conduct a large survey poorly. In the case in which a state
determines it does not have the resources to conduct a high-quality statewide user perception survey, it
could consider possible measures to reduce resource needs such as those listed in section 3.3.1.7.
Additionally, it could consider conducting a pilot survey of a small number of waterbodies. It could also
lay additional groundwork for a full user perception survey in the future by collecting data and
information that would be helpful for designing a survey, such as taking photographic images or
determining popularity of specific waterbodies among visitors.
6.0 Conclusion
States have a variety of tools they can use when deriving numeric nutrient criteria. Among those options,
user perception surveys provide a unique and flexible method to examine the effects of nutrient pollution
on the aesthetic and recreational qualities of the nation's surface waters. In this role they are a useful
option for a state to consider when it is determining the different ways to derive criteria.
Because the judgment of aesthetic quality is measured by the senses of the perceiver, user surveys allow
states to directly measure whether a water is fulfilling its aesthetic uses and, by association, its
16 The relative cost estimate of conducting different survey modes assumes that the state has access to the relevant populations
and groups and their contact information to be able to conduct the survey effectively. Acquiring this information might require
additional resources and staff time.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 47

-------
recreational uses. By directly tying user experiences to the criteria being developed, the state creates
credibility both for itself and the criteria.
User perception surveys can also help states directly engage the public, creating public awareness of the
water resources. Members of an engaged and aware public often feel empowered to become active
citizens and encouraged to participate in protecting water resources, thus strengthening the state. Public
participation in locally driven, bottom-up management can be an influential factor in the long-term
success of water quality protection. Public interest and involvement can be particularly advantageous in
states where local communities are authorized to make decisions regarding water quality protection or
where nonpoint source nutrient contributions are prevalent, often requiring voluntary measures or
government incentives or policies that need public support.
Given the positive benefits a user perception survey can provide in developing numeric nutrient criteria, it
is an important tool with which a state can address nutrient pollution. States can use the information
presented in this primer to determine if a survey is the appropriate tool to help achieve their goals and, if
so, familiarize themselves with the technical aspects and decisions needed to design an effective user
perception survey. Additional resources for a more detailed examination of the intricate aspects of user
perception surveys can be found in the literature used to develop this paper.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Page 48

-------
Appendix A. References
ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality). 2009. Title 18. Environmental Quality: Chapter
11. Department of Environmental Quality Water Quality Standards: Article 11. Water Quality
Standards for Surface Waters. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Phoenix, AZ.
Accessed May 2017.
htto://legacv.azdcq.gov/cnviron/water/standards/download/SWQ Standards-1 -09-unofficial.pdf.
Backer, L.C., L. Fleming, A. Rowan, and D. Baden. 2003. Epidemiology and Public Health of Human
Illnesses Associated with Harmful Marine Algae. Chapter 26 in Manual on Harmful Marine
Microalgae, ed. G.M. Hallegraeff, D.M. Anderson, and A.D. Cembella, pp. 723-749. UNESCO
Publishing, Paris, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001317/131711 e.pdf.
Bricker, S.B., C.G. Clement, D.E. Pirhalla, S.P. Orlando, and D.R.G. Farrow. 1999. National Estuarine
Eutrophi cation Assessment: Effects of Nutrient Enrichment in the Nation's Estuaries. National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office and the
National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, MD.
Brown, T.C., and T.C. Daniel. 1991. Landscape aesthetics of riparian environments: Relationship of flow
quantity to scenic quality along a wild and scenic river. Water Resources Research 27(8): 1787—
1795.
CDEEP (Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection). 2013. Water Quality
Standards. State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Accessed
May 2017.
https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Water/Water-Oualitv/Water-Oualitv-Standards-and-Classification.
CEPA (California Environmental Protection Agency). 2015. California Ocean Plan, Water Quality
Control Plan, Ocean Waters of California. California Environmental Protection Agency, State
Water Resources Control Board, Sacramento, CA. Accessed March 2017.
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water issues/programs/ocean/docs/cop2015.pdf.
Dahlhamer, J.M., M.L. Cynamon, J.F. Gentleman, A. Piani, and M.J. Weiler. 2010. Minimizing Survey
Error Through Interviewer Training: New Procedures Applied to the National Health Interview
Survey. In Proceedings of the Joint Statistical Meetings, American Statistical Association,
Vancouver, British Columbia, July 31-August 5, 2010, pp. 4627-4640. Accessed March 2017.
http://www.asasrms.org/Proceedings/v2010/Files/3Q8678 61376.pdf.
Daniel, T.C., and J. Vining. 1983. Methodological Issues in the Assessment of Landscape Quality.
Chapter 2 in Behavior and the Natural Environment, ed. I. Altman and J.F. Wohlwill, pp. 39-84.
Plenum Press, New York.
Dillman, D.A., J.D. Smyth, and L.M. Christian. 2014. Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys:
The Tailored Design Method 4th ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.
Ditton, R.B., and T.L. Goodale. 1973. Water quality perception and the recreational uses of Green Bay,
Lake Michigan. Water Resources Research 9(3):569-579.
Dodds, W.K., W.W. Bouska, J.L. Eitzmann, T.J. Pilger, K.L. Pitts, A.J. Riley, J.T. Schloesser, and D.J.
Thornbrugh. 2008. Eutrophication of U.S. freshwaters: Analysis of potential economic damages.
Environmental Science and Technology 43(1): 12-19.
Dodds, W.K., and V.H. Smith. 2016. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and eutrophication in streams. Inland Waters
6(2): 155-164.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix A-l

-------
Egan, K.J., J.A. Herriges, C.L. King, and J.A. Downing. 2009. Valuing water quality as a function of
water quality measures. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 91(1): 106-123.
Glibert, P.M., C.J. Madden, W. Boynton, D. Flemer, C. Heil, and J. Sharp. 2010. Nutrients in Estuaries:
A Summary Report of the National Estuarine Experts Workgroup 2005-2007. U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/nutrients-in-estuaries-november-2010.pdf.
Heiskary, Steven, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency [retired]. 2017, September 6. Telephone interview
with Erica Wales, Kearns & West, regarding a case study for EPA's user perception survey white
paper.
Heiskary, S.A., and W.W. Walker, Jr. 1988. Developing phosphorus criteria for Minnesota lakes. Lake
and Reservoir Management 4(1): 1-9.
Heiskary, S.A., and W.W. Walker, Jr. 1995. Establishing a chlorophyll a goal for a run-of-the-river
reservoir. Lake and Reservoir Management 11(1): 67-76.
Heiskary, S.A., and C.B. Wilson. 2005. Minnesota Lake Water Quality Assessment Report: Developing
Nutrient Criteria. 3rd ed. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Saint Paul, MN. Accessed March
2017. http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=6503.
Heisler, J., P.M. Glibert, J.M. Burkholder, D.M. Anderson, W. Cochlan, W.C. Dennison, Q. Dortch, C.J.
Gobler, C.A. Heil, E. Humphries, A. Lewitus, R. Magnien, H.G. Marshall, K. Sellner, D.A.
Stockwell, D.K. Stoecker, and M. Suddleson. 2008. Eutrophication and harmful algal blooms: A
scientific consensus. Harmful Algae 8(1):3—13.
Hetherington, J., T.C. Daniel, and T.C. Brown. 1993. Is motion more important than it sounds? The
medium of presentation in environment perception research. Journal of Environmental Psychology
13(4):283—291.
Hilborn, E.D., V.A. Roberts, L. Backer, E. Deconno, J.S. Egan, J.B. Hyde, D.C. Nicholas, E.J. Wiegert,
L.M. Billing, M. Diorio, M.C. Mohr, J.F. Hardy, T.J. Wade, J.S. Yoder, and M.C. Hlavsa. 2014.
Algal bloom-associated disease outbreaks among users of freshwater lakes—United States, 2009-
2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
63(1): 11-15.
House, M.A., and E.K. Sangster. 1991. Public perception of river-corridor management. Water and
Environment Journal 5(3): 312—316.
Hoyer, M.V., C.D. Brown, and D.E. Canfield, Jr. 2004. Relations between water chemistry and water
quality as defined by lake users in Florida. Lake and Reservoir Management 20(3):240-248.
KDEP (Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection). 2013. 401 KAR 10.031. Surface water
standards. Department for Environmental Protection, Division of Water, Frankfort, KY. Accessed
May 2017. http://www.lrc.kv.gov/kar/401/010/031 .htm.
Keeler, B.L., S.A. Wood, S. Polansky, C. Kling, C.T. Filstrup, and J.A. Downing. 2015. Recreational
demand for clean water: Evidence from geotagged photographs by visitors to lakes. Frontiers in
Ecology and the Environment 13(2):76—81.
Kishbaugh, S.A. 1994. Applications and limitations of qualitative lake assessment data. Lake and
Reservoir Management 9(1): 17-23.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix A-2

-------
Kohavi, R., R. Longbotham, D. Sommerfield, and R.M. Henne. 2009. Controlled experiments on the web:
Survey and practical guide. Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery 18:140-181.
http://ai.stanford.edu/~ronnvk/2009controlledExperimentsOnTheWebSurvev.pdf.
Lopez, C.B., E.B. Jewett, Q. Dortch, B.T. Walton, and H.K. Hudnell. 2008. Scientific Assessment of
Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms. Interagency Working Group on Harmful Algal Blooms,
Hypoxia, and Human Health of the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology,
Washington, DC.
MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality). 2006. Part 4. Water Quality Standards.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Water Bureau, Lansing, MI. Accessed March 2017.
http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/wrd-rules-part4 521508 7.pdf.
NAS and NAE (National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering). 1972. Water
Quality Criteria 1972: A Report of the Committee on Water Quality Criteria. EPA-R3-73-033.
Prepared for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Environmental Sciences Board, National
Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, Washington, DC. Accessed March
2017. http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZvPDF.cgi/2000XOYT.PDF?Dockev=2000XQYT.PDF.
Nicolson, J.A., and A.C. Mace, Jr. 1975. Water quality perception by users: Can it supplement objective
water quality measures? Water Resources Bulletin 11(6): 1197-1207.
NRC (National Research Council). 2000. Clean Coastal Waters: Understanding and Reducing the Effects
of Nutrient Pollution. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.
NYSDEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation), n.d. Citizens Statewide Lake
Assessment Program (CSLAP). Page on NYSDEC website. Accessed March 2017.
http: //www. dec ,nv. gov/chemical/81576 .html.
NYSFOLA and NYSDEC (New York State Federation of Lake Associations and New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation). 2003. Evaluating Lake Perception Data as a Means to
Identify Reference Nutrient Conditions. Final Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Regions I, II, and V.
RM (Responsive Management). 2012. West Virginia Residents' Opinions on and Tolerance Levels of
Algae in West Virginia Waters. Conducted for the West Virginia Department of Environmental
Protection. Accessed March 2017.
http: //www. dep.wv. gov/WWE/Programs/wq s/Documents/WVAlgae SurveReport Re sMgmt WYDE
P 2012.pdf.
RIDEM (Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management). 2009. Water Quality Regulations.
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Office of Water Resources, Providence,
RI. Accessed March 2017. http://www.dem,ri.gov/pubs/regs/regs/water/h20q09a.pdf.
Smeltzer, Eric, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation [retired]. 2017, September 6.
Telephone interview with Erica Wales, Kearns & West, regarding a case study for EPA's user
perception survey white paper.
Smeltzer, E., and S.A. Heiskary. 1990. Analysis and applications of lake user survey data. Lake and
Reservoir Management 6(1): 109-118.
Smeltzer, E., N.C. Kamman, and S. Fiske. 2016. Deriving nutrient criteria to minimize false positive and
false negative water use impairment determinations. Lake and Reservoir Management 32(2): 182-
193.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix A-3

-------
Smith, A. J., B.T. Duffy, and M.A. Novak. 2015. Observer rating of recreational use in wadeable streams
of New York State, USA: Implications for nutrient criteria development. Water Research 69:195—
209.
Smith, D.G., A.M. Cragg, and G.F. Croker. 1991. Water clarity criteria for bathing waters based on user
perception. Journal of Environmental Management 33(3):285-299.
Smith, D.G., and R.J. Davies-Colley. 1992. Perception of water clarity and colour in terms of suitability
for recreational use. Journal of Environmental Management 36(3):225-235.
Smith, D.G., G.F. Croker, and K. McFarlane. 1995a. Human perception of water appearance 1. Clarity
and colour for bathing and aesthetics. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research
29(l):29-43.
Smith, D.G., G.F. Croker, and K. McFarlane. 1995b. Human perception of water appearance 2. Colour
judgment, and the influence of perceptual set on perceived water suitability for use. New Zealand
Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 29(l):45-50.
Smith, V.H., G.D. Tilman, and J.C. Nekola. 1999. Eutrophication: Impacts of excess nutrient inputs on
freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems. Environmental Pollution 100(1-3): 179-196.
Smith, V.H. 2003. Eutrophication of freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems: A global problem.
Environmental Science and Pollution Research 10(2): 126-139.
Summers, James, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. 2017, September 29.
Telephone interview with Erica Wales, Kearns & West, regarding a case study for EPA's user
perception survey white paper.
Sup lee, M., V. Watson, A. Varghese, and J. Cleland. 2008. Scientific and Technical Basis of the Numeric
Nutrient Criteria for Montana's Wadeable Streams and Rivers. Montana Department of
Environmental Quality, Helena, MT.
Suplee, M.W., V. Watson, M. Teply, and H. McKee. 2009. How green is too green? Public opinion of
what constitutes undesirable algae levels in streams. Journal of the American Water Resources
Association 45(1): 123-40.
Suplee, Michael, Montana Department of Environmental Quality. 2017, September 1. Telephone
interview with Erica Wales, Kearns & West, regarding case study for EPA's user perception survey
white paper.
TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). 2014. Texas Surface Water Quality Standards.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Austin, TX.
http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/rcadtac$cxt.TacPagc'.)sl=R&app=9&p dir=&p rloc=&p tloc=&p
ploc=&pg= 1 &p tac=&ti=3 0&pt= 1 &ch=3 07&rl=4.
TWCA (Texas Water Conservation Association). 2005. Development of Use-Based Chlorophyll Criteria
for Recreational Uses of Reservoirs. Final report. Presented to Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality. Prepared by Brazos River Authority, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, Lower Colorado
River Authority, Sabine River Authority, San Antonio River Authority, Tarrant Regional Water
District, and Trinity River Authority.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1998. Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment.
EPA/630/R-95/002F. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC. Accessed July 2017.
https ://nepis .epa.gov/Exe/ZvPDF .cgi/3 0004XFR.PDF?Dockev=3 0004XFR.PDF.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix A-4

-------
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2000a. Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual:
Rivers and Streams. EPA/822/B-00/002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water,
Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://nepis.epa.gOv/Exe/Z vPDF.cgi/20003CVP.PDF?Dockev=20003CVP.PDF.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2000b. Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual:
Lakes and Reservoirs. EPA/822/B-00/001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office ofWater,
Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://nepis.epa.gOv/Exe/Z vPDF.cgi/20003COV.PDF?Dockev=20003CQV.PDF.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2001a. Requirements for Quality Assurance Project
Plans, EPA QA/R-5. EPA/240/B-01/003. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of
Environmental Information, Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://www.epa.gOv/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/r5-final O.pdf.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2001b. Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual:
Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters. EPA/822/B-01/003. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Office ofWater, Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://nepis.epa.gOv/Exe/Z vPDF.cgi/20003FDF.PDF?Dockev=20003FDF.PDF.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2002. Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans,
EPA QA/G-5. EPA/240/R-02/009. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental
Information, Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/g5-final.pdf.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2003. Survey Management Handbook. EPA 260-B-03-
003. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Information Analysis and Access,
Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://nepis.epa.gOv/Exe/Z vPDF.cgi/P1005GNB.PDF?Dockev=P1005GNB.PDF.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2006. Guidance on Systematic Planning Using the
Data Quality Objectives Process, EPA QA/G-4. EPA/240/B-06/001. U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, Office of Environmental Information, Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/g4-final.pdf.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2007. Guidance for Preparing Standard Operating
Procedures, EPA QA/G-6. EPA/600/B-07/001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of
Environmental Information, Washington, DC. Accessed March 2017.
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/g6-final.pdf.
USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2016. Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Load
Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed
March 2017. https://www.epa.gov/waterdata/assessment-and-total-maximum-dailv-load-tracking-
and-implementation-svstem-attains.
UDEQ (Utah Department of Environmental Quality). 2011. Utah's Lakes & Rivers Recreation Survey
2011 (Survey form). Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division ofWater Quality, Salt
Lake City.
Vaske, J.J. 2008. Survey Research and Analysis: Applications in Parks, Recreation and Human
Dimensions. Venture Publishing, State College, PA.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix A-5

-------
VDEC (Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation). 2016. Nutrient Criteria for Vermont's
Inland Lakes and Wadeable Streams. Technical Support Document, Revision. Vermont Department
of Environmental Conservation, Watershed Management Division, Montpelier, VT. Accessed March
2017. http://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/wsm/Laws-Regulations-Rules/2016 12 22-
Nutrient criteria technical support document.pdf.
Vollenweider, R.A. 1968. Scientific Fundamentals of the Eutrophi cation of Lakes and Flowing Waters
with Particular Reference to Nitrogen and Phosphorus as Factors in Eutrophication. Technical
Report DAS/CS1/68.27. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Directorate for
Scientific Affairs, Paris.
Welch, E.B., J.M. Jacoby, R.R. Horner, and M.R. Seeley. 1988. Nuisance biomass levels of periphytic
algae in streams. Hydrobiologia 157:161-168.
West, A.O., J.M. Nolan, and J.T. Scott. 2016. Optical water quality and human perceptions of rivers: An
ethnohydrology study. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability 2(8): 1-11.
WHO (World Health Organization). 1999. Toxic Cyanobacteria in Water: A Guide to Their Public
Health Consequences, Monitoring and Management, ed. I. Chorus and J. Bartram. E & EF Spon,
London, England.
WHO (World Health Organization). 2003. Guidelines for Safe Recreational Water Environments: Volume
1, Coastal and Fresh Waters. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. Accessed March
2017. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42591/1/9241545801.pdf.
WV DEP (West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection). 2017. Filamentous Algae in West
Virginia. Page on WV DEP website. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection,
Charleston, WV. https://dep.wv.gov/WWE/watershed/Algae/Pages/-Nutrients-and-Filamentous-
Algae-in-West-Virginia.aspx.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix A-6

-------
Appendix B, Interviews
Heiskary, Steven. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. January 21, 2015.
Kishbaugh, Scott. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. January 28, 2015.
Laidlaw, Tina. U.S. EPA Region 8. January 30, 2015.
Ostermiller, Jeff. Utah Department of Environmental Quality. February 18, 2015.
Smeltzer, Eric. Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. January 21, 2015.
Summers, James. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. September 9, 2017.
Suplee, Mike. Montana Department of Environmental Quality. February 6, 2015.
Walker, Jr., William W. Consultant. January 29, 2015.
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix B-l

-------
Appendix C. Survey Design Checklist and Questionnaire
Problem Formulation
1.	Do changes in nutrient concentrations in a waterbody cause responses that can be visually
observed?
2.	Are these visual changes consistent among the waterbodies in question (e.g., do all of the streams
of interest respond similarly)?
3.	Are recreational users able to detect gradations of these visual changes?
4.	Are these visual changes meaningful to recreational users or tribes?
Scoping
1.	What are the criteria and conditions of the waterbodies of interest?
2.	What are your key stakeholder and user groups?
What resources are available to help you contact them?
3.	What level of financial resources do you have to conduct the survey?
4.	What types of water quality data are available? What resources and information are available to
support survey development?
5.	Do you have enough staff time to conduct the survey?
6.	Do your in-house staff have expertise in:
o Survey design?
o Survey research and statistics?
7.	What geographic scale will be used to implement the survey?
8.	Is it necessary or possible to classify the waterbodies?
9.	How do the answers to the scoping questions affect the options available for designing,
conducting, and analyzing a survey? As the survey progresses, decisions should be made in light
of the scoping questions.
10.	Based on the decisions made in the previous steps, what type and amount of resources are
needed?
Designing
1.	What are your DQOs?
2.	Do you plan to engage stakeholders? If so, how?
3.	What population do you want represented in your survey population (e.g., general population, key
user/stakeholder groups, both)?
What key groups do you want to target? This assumes that the state has the ability to access those
groups.
Do you have access to contact information for a general population survey?
Do you have access to contact information for key user or stakeholder groups?
4.	What is your ideal sample size?
5.	What steps will you take to minimize survey error?
What margin of error is acceptable for your survey?
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix C-l

-------
Conducting
1.	What mode(s) will you use to conduct the survey?
Looking at the comparison of survey modes, do you have adequate funding and staff resources to
carry out the different modes you wish to use?
2.	How will you select and refine questions and/or pictures used in the survey?
3.	What are your plans for communicating with the public during and after the survey?
4.	What types of information do you plan to collect about the demographics of the respondents?
5.	How will you pretest or pilot your survey?
6.	Do you plan to follow up with respondents after the survey and, if so, how?
Analyzing
1.	How will you compile data?
What methods will you use to ensure QA/QC of data entry and analyses?
2.	What are potential analyses you plan to perform on the data?
How will you identify sources of bias and adjust to minimize their influence?
What descriptive statistics best characterize the data?
3.	How, when, and to whom do you plan to present analyses and communicate results?
Development of User Perception Surveys to Protect Water Quality from Nutrient Pollution
Appendix C-2

-------