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Carolina Clear to survey Midlands residents about water quality

Carolina Clear, Clemson University’s stormwater pollution education and awareness program, wants to gauge what Columbia- and Sumter-area residents understand about local water quality and the effects their actions can have on these resources.

During the next four weeks, through a partnership between Clemson University and George Mason University, students will conduct telephone surveys with households in Richland and Sumter counties to better understand what information and educational programs are needed to help protect the area’s water resources.

The surveys will be conducted from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Each survey is designed to last no longer than 15 minutes. The goal is to have 400 residents complete the survey.

The purpose of the surveys is three-fold, said Katie Giacalone, Carolina Clear’s statewide coordinator.

First, the surveys will yield a better understanding of how South Carolinians use local waterways, whether for recreation, fishing, commercial means or other uses. This information helps watershed managers know who their audiences are and how much they value clean water, Giacalone said.

Second, the survey will illustrate what people know about how their actions affect local water quality.

“Whether we know it or not, we all generate polluted runoff,” Giacalone said. “From not picking up after our dogs to coolant that drips from our car, stormwater pollution is people pollution, and we all can play a meaningful role in keeping South Carolina’s waters clean.”

The third way the survey will be used is to measure program impact over time, which is meaningful for federal stormwater regulatory compliance, she said.

Through area consortia and local partnerships, Carolina Clear works with communities to meet these permit requirements and in the end minimize polluted stormwater runoff by educating and involving the general public and specific audiences.

The Midlands partnerships are the Richland Countywide Stormwater Consortium and Sumter Stormwater Solutions.

In the coming months, Carolina Clear will conduct similar surveys in the Lowcountry, Upstate, Pee Dee and Grand Strand areas.

Preliminary results from the survey will be available to the public in the winter of 2014 through the Carolina Clear website, local newsletters and presentations. A full report will be published in the summer of 2014.

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