Social Indicators


2012-2013 Update: With an established framework for understanding and applying human dimension issues to watershed management in place, the “Social Indicators” initiative advances to the next level of organizing, coordinating and delivering trainings to water resource, conservation and extension professionals. Initiative leaders from University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University and Purdue University, with the support of the Great Lakes Regional Water Program, have already created a Social Indicators for Planning and Evaluation System (SIPES) along with the Social Indicators Data Management and Analysis (SIDMA) tool focused on polluted runoff.

Anticipated outcomes of this year’s funded initiative include an increased awareness of SIPES/SIDMA, increased knowledge of social indicators for watershed management by conservation professionals, increased use of SIPES/SIDMA for planning and evaluation of watershed management and the increased use of social data in watershed management efforts.

Past Work:
Social indicators for NPS management provide information about awareness, attitudes, constraints, capacity, and behaviors that are expected to lead to water quality improvement and protection. By measuring these indicators over time, water quality managers can target their project activities and assess whether their projects are accomplishing changes expected to improve and protect water quality. Monitoring social indicators, like monitoring environmental indicators, gives us valuable information about how well our management strategies are working.

Social indicators complement other environmental and administrative indicators to present a complete picture of project effectiveness. For assistance in developing this social component of the NPS Evaluation Framework, the regional state agency NPS coordinators have initiated this joint project in cooperation with land grant universities throughout the region.

For a full initiative description including recent impacts, download the Social Indicators 2012-13 Annual Summary.


The Region 5 multi-state Social Indicator Team began in Spring 2005 with support from the region's state water quality agencies, USEPA, and the Great Lakes Regional Water Program. The team developed and is testing a set of social indicators with pilot projects across the region using the Social Indicators for Planning and Evaluation System (SIPES). The system is described in the handbook provided through the link below. We also provide sample survey questionnaires used for SIPES and links to articles describing the system.

Follow this link for access to the Social Indicators Data Management and Analysis (SIDMA) tool, hosted by Michigan State University, Institute of Water Research:


The SIPES Handbook, 3rd edition, December, 2011 (5.5 MB pdf)

Sample survey questionnaire for agricultural audience (464 Kb pdf)

Sample survey questionnaire for urban audience (1.08 Mb pdf)

Genskow, K. and Linda Stalker Prokopy. 2010. "Lessons Learned in Developing Social Indicators for Regional Water Quality Management" in Society and Natural Resources Vol. 23, Issue 1, Pages 83-91.

Prokopy, L., K. Genskow, et al. 2009. Designing a regional system of social indicators to evaluate nonpoint source water projects. Journal of Extension 47(2): Feature Article 2FEA1.

Project Timeline

  1. Region 5 multi-state Social Indicator Team established (Spring 2005)
    • Team Contacts
  2. Participatory process for social indicator selection – workshops held and stakeholders surveyed in each state for user input (Fall 2005 –spring 2006)
  3. Core set of social indicators for NPS management and evaluation developed (summer 2006 )
  4. Draft guidance document for using social indicators in NPS management (early 2007)
    • The draft document was circulated among NPS programs within Region 5 as well as external reviewers. Feedback led to important project adjustments.
  5. Select pilots and begin testing social indicator system for NPS evaluation 2007-2011)
    • Pilot projects are occurring in each state in order to test the accuracy and usability of the core indicators, as well as provide opportunities to develop other methods and supplemental indicators for measuring the social component of the NPS management
  6. Testing and application of the on-line Social Indicators Data Management and Analysis (SIDMA) tool (April 2008)
    • Pilot projects will be able to access the SIDMA website here when the model is completed.
  7. Develop and assess multiple tools for evaluating the social component of NPS programs at project, state and regional levels. (2008-2010 )
    • Development of these tools will be ongoing.
    • Complementary and alternative methods
  8. Develop supplemental social indicators (2007-2010)
    • Supplemental indicators that can be used with core indicators will be developed throughout the pilot projects phase.
    • Supplemental indicators will be linked here as they are developed.
  9. Full and revised version of the social indicators system complete (2011)
    • Final Handbook for using the social indicators system (under development)
    • SIDMA website
  10. Provide a means of support for use of social indicators beyond the pilot phase (2011)
    • Discussions between State NPS programs, USEPA Region 5, and the regional social indicators team will determine the nature and extent of ongoing support for the socialindicators system.

Complementary Planning and Evaluation Resources

Below are resources for watershed planning and evaluation that provide complementary approaches to assessing the social component of NPS management.


Evaluating Activities

2011 Annual Summary

  • View Summary
  • Contacts

    Team Leaders:

    Ken Genskow
    Assistant Professor, Department of Urban
    and Regional Planning
    University of Wisconsin-Madison/UW-Extension
    445 Henry Mall
    Madison, WI 53706
    (608) 262-8756

    Linda Stalker Prokopy
    Assistant Professor of Natural
    Resources Planning
    Purdue University
    195 Marsteller Street
    West Lafayette, IN 47907
    (765) 496-2221

    Joe Bonnell
    The Ohio State University
    (614) 292-9383

    This project is as a joint effort of the USEPA, state water quality agencies in Region 5, and Land Grant Universities through the USDA-CSREES Great Lakes Regional Water Quality Program. The project is supported through in-kind contributions from participating organizations, the USDA CSREES Great Lakes Regional Water Quality Program, and state funds provided through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Development of the social indicator framework involves collaborative contributions from the Regional Social Indicators Project Team, comprised of staff and faculty at USEPA, state agencies, and Land Grant Universities in the USEPA Region 5/ CSREES Great Lakes Region. The project was initiated under the leadership of the CSREES Great Lakes Regional Water Quality Program.

    This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an equal opportunity provider and employer.