Evans, Sakura R.
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Water is arguably the most vital element necessary to sustain life on this planet, making the management and protection of water resources an issue of critical importance. As rural land is increasingly fragmented and sold to private buyers and developers in southern Appalachia, the impact of land use decision-making at the parcel level becomes a serious threat to stream health and water quality. In this dissertation, I focus on the interaction of stream management decision-making and the processes of exurbanization that are shaping this region by examining how two different landowner groups perceive water, their stream management practices, and whether exurbanization is resulting in differential stream management among Newcomer and Generational landowners. My analysis of land use decision-making is supported by qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis in the southern Appalachian community of Macon County, North Carolina. I found that over half of all landowners surveyed were removing riparian vegetation and large woody debris from their streams on a regular basis, and while my analysis of sociodemographic and property variables show that Newcomer and Generational landowners are in fact two distinct sub-cultures of landowners, my findings suggest that presently this difference is not translating into land use decision-making. Despite different motivations for engaging in this behavior, Newcomers and Generationals are equally practicing this environmentally harmful form of stream management. Therefore, my hypothesis that these two landowner groups would be differentially managing their streams was proven incorrect, which I attribute to the shared perception of water as a communal resource. Both Newcomer and Generational landowners shared similar perceptions of water use and threats to water quantity and quality, and both groups identified local government as the most significant obstacle to ensuring water security into the future. My findings contribute to literature examining the impacts of exurbanization on environmental resources, the anthropology of water, as well as a regional studies of water use and management. The research presented in this dissertation provides a baseline for understanding how landowners conceptualize water in southern Appalachia, and empirical data on how landowners are managing the streams on their property.