A case study of the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation's communication efforts
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Agriculture production in the Texas High Plains is reliant on irrigation from the Ogallala aquifer, but this dependency and West Texas’ climate has caused the aquifer to decline steadily. Conservation organizations like the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC) are focused on addressing the decline of the Ogallala aquifer, to ensure the longevity and productivity of agriculture on the Texas High Plains. The TAWC conducts progressive, full-scale plot research and then communicates its findings to West Texas agricultural producers. With effective communication, TAWC can reach its appropriate audiences, educate them on the most advanced and efficient water conservation techniques, and ultimately initiate a behavioral change. To explore TAWC’s communication efforts this study drew from the theoretical framework of the diffusion of innovations and the conceptual framework of social marketing. This case study was guided by three research questions and used semi-structured interviews, group observations, and TAWC documents to gather data. Data from these three sources was analyzed using the constant comparative method. Findings, for research question one, indicate West Texas agricultural producers viewed the TAWC as a valuable resource, outreach activities have increased in popularity, and research activities have grown. Research question two determined that TAWC uses a variety of communication methods, such as interpersonal, online, and traditional media channels to reach stakeholder groups. Research question three determined that young or new producers’ lack awareness of TAWC, having a personal contact within TAWC is key to awareness, producers want to conserve water, and using a variety of communication methods is necessary to reach stakeholder groups. This study found that TAWC is doing several things very well. From this study’s findings it was recommended that TAWC continue to provide West Texas agricultural producers in-person events and using a variety of communication methods to reach its targeted audiences. It was also recommended that future research quantify West Texas agricultural producers’ level of awareness regarding TAWC.