Building capacity for citizen science communication of water quality risks: exploring the enhancement of the communication infrastructure in Letcher County, Kentucky

Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Applied Communication Research


In regions of Eastern Kentucky, access to potable water has been diminished due to pollution and ageing infrastructure. Current communications regarding contaminated water are often inaccessible and infrequent to appropriately address the issues in target communities. To explore possible improvements to the community’s communication infrastructure, the researchers explored what types of stories should be used to communicate about water quality risks, who should communicate the stories, and how stories should be communicated. Researchers conduct 24 interviews with community members to derive emergent themes. The researchers concluded the communication infrastructure should be enhanced to engage the public about water quality risks. Risk messaging should share water quality information through stories that are designed to be easily digested and frequently distributed using laypeople’s terms, visuals, graphs, and maps. These stories should be shared using an integrated communication infrastructure where key community storytellers work together to share risk information across platforms and channels.


Publication Date



A version of this manuscript was presented at the National Agricultural Communications Symposium in January 2021.

Funding Information

This publication or project was supported by UK-CARES through Grant P30 ES026529. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIEHS.