Perceptions of Water-related Environmental Concerns in Northwest Ohio One Year after a Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom

Environ Manage. 2019 Dec;64(6):689-700. doi: 10.1007/s00267-019-01217-z. Epub 2019 Oct 26.


Water is essential to human life around the world, but there are numerous threats to its quality both internationally and nationally. The purpose of this secondary data analysis was to examine public perceptions of water-related environmental concerns in northwest Ohio. In fall 2015, nine focus groups on environmental health conditions were conducted with Lucas County, Ohio residents. Each 90-min focus group was videotaped and professionally transcribed to maximize data capture and facilitate data analysis. Colaizzi's (1978) method of content analysis was applied to make sense of the participants' environmental concerns related to water. The majority of the 93 participants were white females between the ages of 40 and 59. A do-not-drink advisory related to a harmful algal bloom in the summer of 2014 and the possibility of a future bloom were still prominent in residents' minds that affected their perceptions and behaviors 1 year later. The emergent themes included: (1) avoiding the use of tap water due to concerns about water quality, (2) mourning the loss of a precious resource and their childhood recreational activities, (3) believing there are financial impacts associated with water problems, (4) distrusting the actions and decisions of persons in authority, (5) wanting to stop fighting about who is to blame and determine the problem's real cause, and (6) desiring actions and planning by authorities to prevent future problems. Understanding public perceptions of water-related environmental concerns can inform practitioners worldwide on successful approaches to restoring trust, educating about and communicating risk, and planning for future issues.

Keywords: Environment; Focus groups; Harmful algal bloom; Lake; Water.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Harmful Algal Bloom*
  • Humans
  • Lakes*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ohio
  • Water
  • Water Quality


  • Water