KWRRI Research Reports


This report describes the work done during Part II of a project which had as its aim the development of a way to quantify those intangible values peculiar to a small stream and its watershed. Part I was concerned with an application of the "uniqueness concept" in the evaluation of fifty-eight Kentucky streams. The results of this effort are in Report #40, U. K. Water Resources Institute (1971).

During the second part of the project:

  1. A method was developed whereby peoples' preferences for natural landscapes could be measured. The method utilized projected color slides and a rating system based on the semantic differential.
  2. Fourteen preference studies were conducted using different types of subjects and stimuli (color slides).
  3. The data were factor analyzed and scores computed for three factors (Natural Beauty, Force and Starkness) for each slide-subject group combination.
  4. The scenic content of each slide was measured and related to the factor scores by a series of linear regression equations.
  5. The uniqueness ratio approach was modified to include fewer stream characteristics (thirty-seven) and the work of Part I essentially repeated.
  6. A new method of stream evaluation was developed which yields a factor score for a given stream on each of six factors (Scenic Attractiveness, Land Use-Topo, Litter, Aquatic Habitat, Extractive Industry, Development).

Conclusions were as follows:

  1. A scene that includes a view of running water is usually preferred over one that includes still water or no water at all.
  2. The stark beauty of a desert, lava flow or a winter pasture is not perceived by most people.
  3. Some types of visual pollution (i.e.; misfit billboards) are not recognized as such by some groups of people.
  4. Familiar scenes are not considered particularly beautiful even though they may be so to outsiders.
  5. Occupation and life style seem to have more effect on an individual's concept of natural beauty than age or sex.
  6. People agree on what's very beautiful or very ugly in a scene but disagree on the in-between.
  7. The semantic differential method as applied in this study yields measures of preference that are well-correlated with on-site evaluations by competent judges.
  8. Predicting preference from the physical content of a scene yields only approximate results.
  9. Reducing the number of stream characteristics used to compute uniqueness ratios did not greatly change the uniqueness rankings of the fifty-eight study streams.
  10. The recommended procedure for evaluating small streams is the factor score approach supplemented by a carefully conceived and executed preference study. The procedure should be applied to a random sample of all small streams in a state or region to establish a stream hierarchy. Factor scores and/ or rankings for a given stream could, if desired, be worked into a benefit-cost or other such computation in the form of a weight or multiplier.

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Funding Information

The work on which this report is based was supported in part by funds provided by the Office of Water Resources Research, United States Department of the Interior, as authorized under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964.