In last week’s Spotlight on the Disadvantaged Community Involvement (DACI) Program, I told you about the DACI grant supporting disadvantaged communities in Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM). This week, I’m going to get into the specifics of our first project: community identification and mapping.
Before we can reach out to disadvantaged communities to engage them in water management, we first want to determine where communities are located. In the Indian Valley community where I live, there are houses spread out all over the Valley. Many residents have a Greenville address, but are not included in the census data for Greenville, whose boundaries do not extend beyond the town itself. This means that there is a large population of people living in the Indian Valley community that are not counted if we only look at “places” defined by the census.
When identifying communities, we want to include rural populations and use data that represent the whole community. To that end, we are using census block groups to create units defined by the communities themselves. Block groups are not always reflective of community boundaries. We are using local experts- community leaders who have familiarity with large portions of IRWM regions- to look at a map and determine which block groups (alone or together) comprise a community, and what that community should be called.
So what is a community? For our purposes, a community is an area that has a distinct culture and identity. A community is where people work, shop, play, go to school or generally spend their time. It’s how people describe their home, especially in cases where there is a distinct culture between two neighboring areas. Let me go back to the Greenville example. Is Greenville a separate community or part of the greater Indian Valley area? It depends on who you ask. People throughout the valley shop and go to school and get their mail in Greenville, but they also live a distinctly more rural lifestyle. Because opinions differ, we are asking for input from multiple local experts.
After communities have been determined, we will hold a pair of community capacity and water/wastewater needs assessment workshops throughout the Mountain Counties Funding Area (MCFA). At the community capacity workshops, we will ask participants to evaluate each community’s capacity to handle water related challenges. Capacity assessments provide a more holistic picture of community well-being. For example, a low income community may have an excellent community leader or a particularly engaged population. This assessment, combined with a number of socioeconomic indicators, will help us to determine which communities are disadvantaged.
Lauren and Lauren are on road this week to visit some of the RWMGs that we are working with on the DACI Program. Tune in Friday to hear how it went!