About the Survey

In 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program conducted the Stewardship Index Survey, its first comprehensive survey of people’s actions and attitudes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The survey was developed and conducted by OpinionWorks, LLC on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Program. The data was collected through mobile and landline phone interviews with 5,212 randomly selected watershed residents between March 14 and June 13, 2017. The Chesapeake Bay Program intends to repeat the survey every five years.

6 Watershed States
& Washington, DC
20 Measured
5,212 Completed
12 Demographic

Survey Questions

Content for the survey was identified through a collaborative process involving a wide range of stakeholders from the government, academic and non-profit sectors. The survey covered the following topics:

Introduction and Screening
(9 questions)
Collected demographic and background information.
Stewardship Behaviors
(20 questions)
Measures actions that individual residents can take to improve water quality and environmental health.
(5 questions)
Measures the share of the public that is participating in community efforts to improve water quality and environmental health.
Civic Engagement
(2 questions)
Measures the share of the public that engages in local and regional civic activities on behalf of water quality and environmental health.
Future Likelihood of Adopting Behaviors
(20 questions)
Measures residents' willingness to consider taking personal actions that they are not currently taking today.
Individual Engagement
(11 questions)
Measures residents' interest in participating in community efforts or engaging in civic activities on behalf of water quality and environmental health.

Behavior Identification

The survey questions were based on 20 stewardship behaviors. Some of the behaviors are positive and encouraged, while others are negative and should be minimized or stopped.

Dog Waste

  • Pick up your dog's waste and dispose of it in the trash when you are on your own property
  • Pick up your dog's waste and dispose of it in the trash when you are off your own property

Down the Drain

  • Installed low flow sinks, shower heads or toilets to conserve water at home
  • Had your septic system inspected or pumped out
  • Wash used cooking oil or grease down the drain
  • Dispose of medicine or prescription drugs down the drain or by flushing them down the toilet

Managing Rainwater

  • Have a rain barrel
  • Rain barrel is connected to a downspout and emptied between rain storms
  • Have downspouts that drain directly to hard surfaces like a driveway, sidewalk, or street gutter


  • Pick up other peoples' litter when you see it
  • Toss food wrappers, cups, or cigarette butts on the ground when you are not near a trash can

Yard & Garden

  • Created a rain garden, or an area specifically designed to capture and quickly absorb excess rainwater
  • Replaced an area of grass lawn with native low-maintenance plants
  • Sweep lawn fertilizer off hard surfaces, or use a spray guard to keep it off hard surfaces
  • Planted a tree
  • Bag, mulch, or compost leaves that fall on your property
  • Put fertilizer on your grass lawn
  • Use herbicide to control weeds in your yard
  • Use pesticides in or around your home, for example mosquito spray or poison for rodents
  • Blow or rake leaves and grass clippings off of your lawn and onto hard surfaces like the driveway or street

What criteria were used to select the behaviors?

  • The behavior involves individual, not collective or corporate decision-making.
  • Is repetitive and can be tracked over time.
  • Can be broadly adopted by the general public, not just by experts.
  • Has a significant, measurable impact on water quality, or even if low-impact is valuable in its own right as a means of engaging the public in behavior change.

The stakeholder group determined that the behaviors measured by this study should be residential-scale and not agricultural or commercial, as those practices are measured through other instruments. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Survey Methodology (PDF).

Ready To See The Survey Results?

The resulting survey data represents a powerful resource for agencies and organizations working to foster stewardship and create behavior change campaigns.