Water Pollution Seen As Top Chesapeake Bay Environmental Issue

posted in: Environmental Issues | 0

On February 8, 2011, the Chesapeake Bay Trust released the results of a statewide poll that surveyed more than 1,000 Marylanders on their attitudes about Chesapeake Bay restoration and other environmental issues.  In total, more than 90 percent of respondents stated that “water pollution in rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay” is their top environmental concern.

While most Marylanders believe that the health of the Bay and local waters is not yet improving, they remain strikingly optimistic about the prospects for the future, with 85 percent saying that “the [water pollution] problem can be fixed.”  The study also shows that Marylanders are willing to step up efforts – in their personal lives and by government – to ensure the Bay’s recovery.

“The Trust commissioned this study as part of our ongoing effort to support Marylanders’ everyday commitment to environmental stewardship.  Even in the face of continuing economic difficulties, Marylanders care deeply about a healthy Bay and a clean environment,” said Allen Hance, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  “More importantly, this commitment is backed up by high levels of individual stewardship and civic involvement and robust support for strengthened public policies to protect the environment.”

Marylanders are highly engaged in the civic life of their communities, with large numbers supporting or becoming actively involved in organizations working to solve local problems.  More than three quarters (78%) contribute money to causes they believe in, with 38 percent saying they have done so frequently over the last year.  Almost three quarters (63%) volunteer for a charitable organization in their community and 58 percent report that they’ve worked with others in their local community to solve a problem or make it a better place.

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust makes grants to organizations and schools to engage volunteers and community members in efforts to create local solutions to local problems, especially those related to water pollution.  We have always known that Marylanders are civic-minded and service-oriented,” said Hance, “but this survey reveals levels of participation higher than national averages and allows us to identify new opportunities to support community-based stewardship.”

When it comes to public policymaking, Marylanders place a high priority on protection of the natural environment.  55 percent of Marylanders place their concern for the natural environment “above average” or “at the top” of their priority list, with only 13 percent ranking their concern as “below average” or “at the bottom.”  With respect to water pollution and the health of the Bay, nearly three-quarters of Marylanders (71%) believe that government regulation is necessary to deal with the problem.  Only 22 percent think the problem can be fixed with incentives and voluntary actions alone.

When asked about a new federal and state regulatory plan for Bay clean-up, 73 percent voiced support for the concept of a pollution diet “that will require local governments in Maryland and other Bay states to reduce pollutants coming from homes, businesses, and farms within their jurisdictions.”  Nearly the same number (71%) would support a stormwater fee to address the problem of polluted runoff, provided the policy was enacted equitably across the state, returned revenue to local communities, and created jobs.  A strong majority (80%) would support “strengthened regulations on the formulation and application of lawn and garden fertilizers in order to prevent support runoff from reaching local waters and the Chesapeake Bay,” with only 15 percent opposed.

In their individual lives, Marylanders demonstrate their strong commitment to environmental stewardship in a number of ways, ranging from recycling to purchasing green products to reducing lawn fertilizer and pesticide use.  The vast majority (89%) report that they recycle and the same number (89%) are attempting to reduce energy usage.  Similar numbers of Marylanders say they pick up litter (87%) and 39 percent care enough that they talk to others about littering.  Nearly half (47%) indicate that they are actively reducing their use of lawn fertilizers and pesticides.

“This research shows that Marylanders’ concern for the Chesapeake Bay and the natural environment doesn’t slip, even in times of budget deficits and persistent economic challenges.  For Marylanders, it’s not an ‘either-or’ between the economy and the environment,” said Steve Raabe, Founder and President of OpinionWorks, the firm that conducted the survey.  “They want to see tangible progress toward a healthy Bay and are willing to pay for restoration and to support regulatory changes designed to achieve this goal.”

source: Cheseapeake Bay Trust

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