Article

Overcoming psychological resistance toward using recycled water in California

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Abstract

We use data from a representative sample of adult Californians (N = 1500) to examine the relation between information and sociodemographic factors to the willingness to adopt recycled water in 10 different applications. We find that direct consumption or skin contact with recycled water stirs the strongest resistance. We conducted a randomized experiment to test how respondents would react to learning that there is large, existing, indirect potable use program in Orange County. While both messages boost support for almost all uses of recycled water, respondents still resist drinking, bathing and cooking with it. Contrary to some previous findings, the response to both information cues generally does not appear to depend upon level of education.

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... Similarly, studies of links between education level and acceptance of reclaimed water have produced mixed results. Rock et al. (2012) found that education had a positive effect since relatively educated respondents were more receptive to scientific information concerning the safety of reclaimed water while Hui and Cain (2017) documented no significant effect associated with education level. One factor that consistently had a negative impact on the acceptance of reclaimed water is the presence of children in a household. ...
... Fielding and Roiko (2014) found that providing positive information about how reclaimed water is treated to make it drinkable increased consumers' support and Simpson and Stratton (2011) demonstrated that exposing consumers to a lengthy online informational brochure about reclaimed water led to an increase in U.S. consumers' acceptance of it for potable uses. Furthermore, Hui and Cain (2017) found that providing information about an existing program for reclaimed potable water to survey respondents in California increased their support for use of reclaimed water in applications that did not involve direct contact, such as drinking, cooking, and bathing. In a field experiment on consumer response to fresh produce irrigated with reclaimed water, Savchenko et al. (2018a) found that the balanced, positive-plus-negative information about reclaimed water was more effective than the benefit information alone, confirming the results of several other studies about the effects of positive and negative information Kajale and Becker, 2014;Price et al., 2015). ...
... Disgust associated with reclaimed water has received considerable attention in the economic and policy literature (Po et al., 2003;Alhumoud et al., 2003;Menegaki et al., 2007;Lease et al., 2014;Kecinski and Messer, 2018a). Studies have argued that due to disgust reclaimed water may be most acceptable for uses that involve little human contact with the water itself, such as irrigating parks and lawns and washing clothes, and least acceptable when the water is used for drinking, cooking, and irrigating fresh produce (Po et al., 2005;Toze, 2006;Hurlimann, 2007;Dolnicar and Schäfer, 2009;Dolnicar and Hurlimann, 2010;Rock et al., 2012;Lease et al., 2014;Kecinski et al., 2016;Hurlimann and Dolnicar, 2016;Hui and Cain, 2017;Savchenko et al., 2018a). In a survey of consumers in Arizona, Rock et al. (2012) found that 67% of respondents were in favor of using reclaimed water to irrigate non-edible crops while only 28% favored it for vegetable crops. ...
Article
Reclaimed water has been identified as a viable and cost-effective solution to water shortages impacting agricultural production. However, lack of consumer acceptance for foods irrigated with reclaimed and treated water remains one of the greatest hurdles for widespread farm-level adoption. Using survey data from 760 participants in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., this paper examines consumer preferences for six sources of reclaimed irrigation water and identifies statistically significant relationships between consumers’ demographic characteristics and their preferences for each type of reclaimed water. Key findings suggest that adult consumers prefer rain water to all other sources of reclaimed water. Women are less likely than men to prefer reclaimed irrigation water sources and are particularly concerned about the use of black and brackish water. Consumers who had heard about reclaimed water before are more likely to accept its use. Drawing on evidence from survey and experimental research, this paper also identifies disgust, neophobia and safety concerns as the key issues that lead consumers to accept or reject foods produced with reclaimed water. Finally, we identify avenues for future research into public acceptance of reclaimed water based on our analysis and evidence from prior research.
... According to these authors, social-liberal politicians, as well as citizens with a stronger social-liberal ideology, tend to care more about the environment. Hui and Cain (2018) also report that, even after accounting for socio-demographic characteristics such as income disparity or education, Americans who identified as Democrats were more willing to use recycled water than Republicans and independents. ...
... Thus, according to users, the attributes that would make recycled water suitable for domestic use vary according to what it is used for ( Hurlimann and McKay, 2007 ). In this regard, previous research (e.g., Hui and Cain, 2018 ;Hurlimann and Dolnicar, 2016 ;Alhumoud and Madzikanda, 2010 ) indicates that when the use of recycled water involves personal contact, such as drinking and cooking, there is a notable drop in the acceptance of the use of recycled water. It can thus be concluded that, regardless of the method used, acceptance of recycled water drops with increasing proximity of personal contact ( Fielding et al., 2019 ). ...
... These results are in line with those reported in previous research (e.g., López-Ruiz et al., 2020 ;Hui and Cain, 2018 ;Hurlimann and Dolnicar, 2016 ;Ormerod and Scott, 2013 ;Alhumoud and Madzikanda 2010 ). In general, willingness to use recycled water increases as physical contact decreases. ...
Article
In the circular economy model, the recycling of water is an alternative option that can reduce the pressure on water resources and guarantee water supply. This water policy measure is currently widespread in agriculture, but thus far few countries have opted for the domestic use of recycled water. In part, this is because it is the source of water with the lowest levels of public acceptance, which poses a threat to the success of the necessary investment. We analyse the degree of acceptance of recycled water for different domestic uses. The main contribution of this study is the analysis of the determinants of acceptance of recycled water by use type. The research was based on data from a questionnaire given to 844 university students in Andalusia, southern Spain. Results are obtained from ordinary least squares regressions that relate the determinants of recycled water acceptance to each of the water use classes. The 'yuck factor'—variously defined as ‘disgust’ or ‘psychological repugnance’—and the perceived risk are found to be the main determinants of the low degree of acceptance of recycled water for ingestion by people and pets. For other uses, such as body washing, laundry and cleaning, environmental awareness stands out as a determining factor. The main conclusion is that if authorities were to opt for measures to promote the use of recycled water, they should take into account the fact that the reluctance to use recycled water and the determinants of acceptance differ according to the intended use.
... Most prior studies, however, have primarily relied on survey methodologies to understand consumers' responses to recycled water. Those studies showed that consumers are generally concerned about recycled irrigation water used on edible crops (Po et al., 2005;Menegaki et al., 2007;Rock et al., 2012) and found that providing consumers with information about recycled water can increase their acceptance of its use (Hills et al., 2002;Hurlimann, 2007;Dolnicar et al., 2010;Fielding and Roiko, 2014;Simpson and Stratton, 2011;Hui and Cain, 2018). Research designed to identify socio-demographic drivers of acceptance of recycled water has produced mixed results. ...
... In analyses of education level, Rock et al. (2012) reported that higher levels of education were associated with increased acceptance of recycled water O.M. Savchenko, et al. Food Policy xxx (xxxx) xxxx while Hui and Cain (2018) found that it had no significant effect on consumers' willingness to use recycled water. Several studies have found that income and gender (Menegaki et al., 2007;Dolnicar et al., 2010) can influence acceptance of recycled water. ...
... Our results also show that the behavioral interventions represented by the information treatments had no statistically significant effects on purchasing decisions for foods irrigated with recycled water relative to purchasing foods in the no-information control group. These findings are in line with other studies that also reported insignificant effects of information on acceptance of recycled water (Ellis et al., 2018;Hui and Cain, 2018). The fact that information about benefits of recycled water is unlikely to increase consumers' acceptance of products irrigated with recycled water has important policy implications. ...
Article
This paper presents results from a field experiment designed to evaluate whether food processing alleviates consumers’ concerns about crops grown with recycled water. Recycled water has emerged as a potentially safe and cost-effective way to replace or supplement traditional irrigation water. However, adoption of recycled water by U.S. agricultural producers has been modest, in part, because of concerns that consumers will be reluctant to accept their products. Our results suggest that simple processing of foods such as drying or liquefying can relieve some of consumers’ concerns about use of recycled irrigation water. While consumers of processed foods are indifferent between irrigation with recycled and conventional water, they are less willing to pay for fresh foods irrigated with recycled water relative to conventional water. We also found that consumers would experience a welfare gain from a labeling policy communicating the use of recycled irrigation water on both processed and fresh foods. Our analysis further reveals that informational nudges that provide consumers with messages about benefits, risks, and both the benefits and risks of using recycled water have no statistically significant effect on consumers’ willingness to pay for fresh and processed foods irrigated with recycled water relative to a no-information control group.
... Studies have considered the degree of acceptance of the use of recycled water in various parts of the world, including Australia (Dolnicar & Schäfer, 2009;Fielding et al., 2015), the United States (Hui & Cain, 2018;Ishii et al., 2015;Ormerod & Scott, 2013), China (Gu et al., 2015;Liu et al., 2018;Zhu et al., 2018) and South Africa (Khan, 2013). In some cities, domestic use of recycled water already enjoys public approval. ...
... For some people, the notion that the recycled water has been in contact with human waste triggers an aversive reaction. The knowledge that wastewater is the primary source of the recycled water psychologically 'contaminates' it and makes people feel less comfortable about using the resulting water, especially if it will come into direct bodily contact (Hui & Cain, 2018;Hurlimann & Dolnicar, 2010a). Thus, the relevance of the 'yuck factor' depends on the intended use of the water. ...
Article
Under current Spanish law, domestic use of recycled water is only permitted during an officially declared disaster; however, it could be an option from a regulatory perspective. However, would Spaniards be willing to use recycled water in the home if necessary? This study investigates the public acceptance of recycled water use in Spanish households and identifies the determinants of acceptance. In data from 791 questionnaires administered in southern Spain, recycled water is the least acceptable option for alternative sources of water, behind both rainwater collection and desalination. Perceived health risk and environmental awareness explain the differences in acceptance.
... As to willingness to either directly ingest or have regular skin contact with recycled water, respondents in all five classes expressed similar reluctance. This psychological "disgust" factor has been identified in many preivous studies conducted has proven to be the hardest to overcome (Hui and Cain 2016;Dolnicar and Schafer 2009;Po et al. 2013;Wester et al. 2016). ...
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We conducted a survey about preferences toward drought and water policies in California. We find that water policies, which in the past enjoyed a high degree of bipartisan consensus, have now become more divided along partisan lines in the electorate. Yet the mapping between party identification and policy preferences is complex. We observe strong party polarization with respect to allocating water shares to agriculture versus environmental flows, and also to whether environmental regulations should be loosened. There was, however, far less partisan disagreement about the need for temporary emergency water reductions. There was uniformly high support for constructing all forms of water infrastructure, even though the issue is highly polarized at the elite level. Lastly, the public receptivity toward using recycled water is lopsided. A majority of Californians support using recycled water in agriculture, and in homes to flush toilets and water lawn, but resist direct ingestion.
... While not the highest ranked among impactful challenges, negative public perception and limited knowledge were considered by many to have at least a slight negative impact on the uptake of ONWS as per Fig. 1. While increased education about ONWS has been shown to do little to improve public attitude, drawing attention to existing successful implementations in local areas can produce more favorable opinions towards the use of alternate water sources (Hui and Cain, 2018). From the survey, the most cited reason for low demand was an unfamiliarity with alternate water sources and the concept of reuse. ...
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Onsite (a.k.a. decentralized) water reuse can reduce overall potable water demand and aid in meeting water reduction goals. In spite of clear benefits, onsite non-potable water systems (ONWS), specifically non-blackwater commercial systems, face many challenges that are preventing growth and expansion in California. This study utilized a technical advisory committee and a survey to identify the most significant challenges facing onsite water reuse systems, how these challenges affect ONWS stakeholders, and potential solutions at the state level. The given methods found that the most prevalent challenges hindering the growth of ONWS appeared to be the absence of a local regulatory program, system cost, poor access to training for regulators, and limited public education about alternate water sources. Survey results revealed several possible drivers for the existence of these challenges including that informational and training resources are not adequately disseminated to target groups. The study concluded that the creation of trainings for regulators, the development of an organization dedicated to onsite systems, expanded technology certifications, policy changes, and highlighting existing systems might help overcome the challenges hindering growth and allow for greater expansion of onsite non-potable water systems throughout California.
... Although the technical aspects of wastewater reuse and management have often been considered as being a priority (Jafarinejad, 2017), other concerns, such as regulation and perception aspects, have not been assessed or considered seriously enough and they have often been disregarded (Padilla-Rivera et al., 2016;Hui and Cain, 2018). This paper aims to synthesize current knowledge about the driving factors affecting water reuse in agriculture by considering technical and social components over the last decade. ...
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The narrative of reusing water for agricultural purposes is sometimes conceived as being one of the reasons versus emotions, which might not capture the complexity of the issue at hand, including the legitimate fear of risks, diffuse regulations and the visceral reactions from farmers and the public. By analysing recent peer-reviewed literature (2007–2017) from a holistic approach (technical and social issues), this review explores: 1) the main characteristics of the reviewed literature on this topic (geographical contexts, research areas, main topics and tools), 2) relevant driving factors to effectively reconcile farmers’ needs and public perceptions of water reuse, and 3) the current knowledge gaps and future challenges to be addressed by end users, managers and authorities. The article concludes by discussing the level of the knowledge in this area and advanced recommendations to further a better comprehension of technical and social driving factors of water reuse in agriculture.
... The results indicating that consumers prefer produce grown with conventional water to produce grown with recycled water 4 could result from feelings of disgust associated with the origin of recycled water (Po et al., 2003;Wester et al., 2016) or from perceived health risks associated with its use. These findings add to the growing number of studies that have documented public resistance to uses of recycled water that involve direct human contact or consumption (Po et al., 2005;Menegaki et al., 2007;Hui and Cain, 2017). ...
Article
Recycled water is one potential solution to meeting the growing demand for irrigation water in the U.S. and worldwide. However, widespread adoption of recycled water by agriculture will depend on consumers’ acceptance of food crops grown with this water. In a revealed-preference dichotomous-choice framed field experiment, this study elicits consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for fresh produce irrigated with recycled water. It also evaluates consumers’ behavioral responses to information about benefits and potential risks of recycled irrigation water. The results suggest that consumers are less willing to pay for produce irrigated with recycled water than for produce irrigated with water of an unspecified type. Information about potential risks associated with recycled water reduces consumers’ WTP by nearly 50% while information about its environmental benefits does not have a substantial impact. However, a behavioral intervention that presents individuals with a balanced information treatment leads to a 30% increase in mean WTP for produce irrigated with recycled water relative to the experimental control. However, this effect is only found with vegetables and not with fruit, perhaps because fruit is usually consumed raw. Most of the demographic characteristics analyzed in the experiment did not influence consumers’ likelihood of purchasing produce irrigated with recycled water; the exception was presence of a child in the household—those consumers were less likely to purchase produce, particularly fruits, irrigated with recycled water. Finally, consumers experience welfare gains from a labeling policy that provides information about the use of recycled irrigation water.
... However, using recycled water for irrigation is a new technology, and few U.S. producers have adopted it despite its value as a cost-effective way to grow crops sustainably (Gleick, 2010). 1 Their reluctance is related, at least in part, to concerns about how U.S. consumers will react to food produced with recycled water (Po et al., 2005;Rozin et al., 2015) even though water recycling is highly regulated by government agencies. Consumers' aversion can be further amplified when they are exposed to phrases such as "toilet to tap" (Dingfelder, 2004) adopted by a number of media sources (Hui and Cain, 2017). ...
Article
Agricultural industries are heavy users of water, which can be especially concerning in times of drought. One way to address agriculture's impact during droughts is to use recycled water for irrigation, but little is known about how consumers will respond to information disclosing that a food product was produced with recycled water. On the positive side, irrigation with recycled water is environmentally friendly. On the negative side, there is an “ick” factor that might repel consumers. We conducted a framed field experiment to evaluate consumers' responses to California and French wines made from grapes produced with recycled, conventional, and an unspecified type of water for irrigation. We find that consumers prefer not to know; their willingness to pay is greatest when the wine is made from grapes irrigated with an unspecified type of water. There is a discount for conventional irrigation water for both California and French wines, but it is statistically significant only for the California wines.
... Hilaire et al., 2008). Two benefits of using recycled water for urban irrigation are (1) its higher public acceptance compared to other applications (Hui & Cain, 2017) and (2) higher nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) concentrations that can act as soil fertilizer (Qian & Mecham, 2005;Sala & Serra, 2004). Recycled water can also have high salt content due to the structure of wastewater and possible ground and/or saltwater intrusion into pipes (Hurlimann & McKay, 2007), leading to salinity buildup during irrigation and requiring additional management efforts (Qian & Mecham, 2005;St. ...
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Nonresidential irrigation is a unique and important yet understudied urban water sector. Knowing how urban irrigators use water is critical for projecting future demands, planning diverse supply portfolios, and designing conservation strategies. In this study, we developed a holistic, analytical approach to advance knowledge about the temporal and spatial dimensions of nonresidential outdoor water use, also known as large landscape irrigation. Our approach employed data from two forthcoming technologies: dedicated irrigation meters and smart meters (i.e., advanced metering infrastructure). We then applied our methodology to a case study city in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, from 2013 to 2016 during a historic, high-profile drought. Importantly, we uncovered behavioral differences between customers with potable versus recycled water connections and different subsectors of large landscape irrigation. Overall, conservation patterns mimicked those across California. Although they saved at lower rates, customers with recycled water followed similar conservation trends despite receiving no mandates. A weekly water use model revealed drivers of water demand, while spatial analyses showed hot and cold spots of conservation, with those in higher-income areas conserving less as the drought progressed. A conditional inference tree partitioned diverse customers based on their conservation rates, identifying characteristics of customers who could provide the most savings in future droughts. As increasing water scarcity and population growth prompt water suppliers to optimize resources through supply diversification and demand-side management, large landscape irrigation presents one avenue for achieving those goals.
... Although technical aspects of wastewater reuse have often been considered a priority [36], social concerns, such as farmers' predisposition to use, and public' attitudes to consume food from reclaimed wastewater, call for more attention [37,38]. Notions of risk are social constructions deeply embedded in historical, social and cultural context, which are perceived differently by individuals, communities, decision-makers, and water managers [39,40]. ...
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The successes and failures of water reuse schemes are shaped by complex interrelationships between technological, economic, and socio-political factors. However, it has long been recognized that the main challenges to more effective water management are largely social rather than technical. This article reviews the recent literature (2007–2017) to analyze driving factors associated with farmers’ concerns and public perception of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation. The aim of the paper is to synthetize how both environmental and health risks and the yuck factor could be addressed in order to promote mutual understanding between farmers and the public. Results show: (1) how farmers and the public perceive environmental and health risks in a similar way, (2) how the yuck factor is more noticeable for the public than farmers, and (3) how constructed wetlands, reclaimed water exchange consortiums, product certification, and direct site visits to water reuse infrastructure could be promoted in order to foster understanding between farmers and the public. The article concludes by providing key research questions for managers and public authorities relating to how to focus on the study of technical and social issues related to water reuse.
... The public often reject to use recycled water reuse (Ching, 2015) because of the disgust that recycled water is "Toilet to Tap". This phenomenon was discovered by scholars as early as the 1970s and described as the public's aversion to the impurity of recycled water (Hui & Cain, 2018). In subsequent studies, nausea was shown to have a strong predictive effect on public exclusion for recycled water reuse (Wester et al., 2015). ...
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The development of big data and Internet of things (IoT) have brought big changes to e-commerce. Different kinds of information sources have improved the consumers’ online shopping performance and make it possible to realize the business intelligence. Grip force and eye-tracking sensors are applied to consumers' online reviews search behavior by relating them to the research approaches in IoT. To begin with, public cognition of human contact degrees of recycled water reuses with grip force test was measured. According to the human contact degrees, 9 recycled water reuses presented by the experiment are classified into 4 categories. Based on the conclusion drawn from grip force test, purified recycled water and fresh vegetable irrigated with recycled water are regarded as the drinking for high-level human contact degree and the irrigation of food crops for low-level human contact degree respectively. Several pictures are designed for eye-tracking test by simulating an on-line shopping web page on Taobao (the most popular online shopping platform in China). By comparing the fixation time participants spent on the areas of interest (AOIs), we justify that consumers' online reviews search behavior is substantially affected by human contact degrees of recycled products. It was found that consumers rely on safety perception reviews when buying high contact goods.
... The importance of information and communication is confirmed in numerous theoretical and empirical studies about public perception and the legitimacy of water reuse programs (see: Hui and Cain, 2018;Harris-Lovett et al. 2015;Fielding and Roiko 2014;Hartley 2006;Christen 2005). The focus on communication as a catalyst for public acceptance emerges from what Fielding et al. (2018) describe as the "information-deficit approach" (p. ...
... Por el contrario, aspectos como la predisposición del regante al uso de aguas reutilizadas o la aceptación social sobre el consumo de alimentos producidos con dicho recurso han ocupado un segundo plano (Hui y Cain, 2018). En estos contextos ha tomado fuerza la cuestión del riesgo social asociado a la reutilización, llegando a establecer un nivel de riesgo social asumible técnicamente y aceptable socialmente (Dobbie y Brown, 2014). ...
... To measure perceived risk and willingness to use, participants were presented with eight different common uses of reused water, including three direct (drinking, showering/bathing, and cooking) and five indirect (watering the lawn, firefighting, flushing the toilet, washing the car, and watering public parks) applications. The categorization of these specific uses is based on prior literature finding that consumption and/or direct skin contact with the water to be differentially perceived (Dolnicar and Schafer, 2009;Dolnicar and Hurlimann, 2010;DuBose, 2009;Gu et al., 2015;Hui and Cain, 2017). For perceived risk, participants indicated the extent to which they thought using recycled/reclaimed water for each purpose would be extremely risky (À 2) to extremely safe (2). ...
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Increased water demand attributed to population expansion and reduced freshwater availability caused by saltwater intrusion and drought, may lead to water shortages. These may be addressed, in part, by use of recycled water. Spatial patterns of recycled water use in Florida and California during 2009 were analyzed to detect gaps in distribution and identify potential areas for expansion. Databases of recycled water products and distribution centers for both states were developed by combining the 2008 Clean Water Needs Survey database with Florida's 2009 Reuse Inventory and California's 2009 Recycling Survey, respectively. Florida had over twice the number of distribution centers (n = 426) than California (n = 228) and produced a larger volume of recycled water (674.85 vs. 597.48 mgd (3.78 mL/d = 1 mgd), respectively). Kernel Density Estimation shows the majority of distribution in central Florida (Orlando and Tampa), California's Central Valley region (Fresno and Bakersfield), and around major cities in California. Areas for growth were identified in the panhandle and southern regions of Florida, and northern, southwestern, and coastal California. Recycled water is an essential component of integrated water management and broader adoption of recycled water will increase water conservation in water-stressed coastal communities by allocating the recycled water for purposes that once used potable freshwater.
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Stigmatization of water and food products can constrain markets and prevent the implementation of scientifically safe solutions to environmental problems, such as water scarcity. Recycled water can be a cost‐effective, dependable, and safe solution to water shortages. However, consumers generally either require a large reduction in price to purchase products made with recycled water or reject such products outright. If emerging sustainable agricultural technologies, such as recycled water, are to be used to address growing water shortages worldwide, policymakers, water managers, and industry stakeholders must identify effective strategies for mitigating the stigma associated with recycled water. Using field experiments involving 1420 adult participants, we test the effectiveness of two stigma‐mitigating techniques. We also demonstrate a novel twist to the collection of representative samples in non‐hypothetical field experimental settings and then compare the results to a more traditional field experiment that recruited participants at large public gatherings. The analysis of these two different samples suggests a common finding: passing recycled water through a natural barrier, such as an aquifer, removes the stigma consumers would otherwise attach to it. We also find that the trophic level an organism occupies in the food chain influences stigmatizing behavior. The greater the steps in the food chain between an organism and the use of recycled water, the less it is stigmatized by consumers. These results have important implications for efforts to promote large‐scale potable and non‐potable water recycling projects and the use of recycled water in the agricultural industry.
Article
Oilfield Produced Water (OPW) has been identified as a viable solution to mitigate water scarcity in California‘s Central Valley. However, consumer perception on the use of OPW outside of the oil and gas industry remains unknown and poses a hurdle for large-scale adoption. This paper, based on 134 randomly selected residents of Kern County (California‘s largest oil-producing county and top agricultural region), examined attitudes towards OPW reuse. In the survey, more than half (52.3%) of participants said that they have heard about oilfield-produced water and other reclaimed waters. Findings also suggest that participants mostly preferred rain and stormwater, and interestingly scored OPW higher than industrial and black waters for irrigation purposes. Around 67% of the participants supported the use of oilfield-produced water for irrigating crops. Younger people (18–29 years) expressed greater concern about using OPW compared to the older residents. Given the drought conditions in Central Valley, policymakers might need to focus on a circular economy and mandate the use of OPW in Central Valley considering that this region‘s economy lies at the nexus of the O&G and agriculture industries.
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We conducted a survey about preferences toward drought and water policies in California. We find that water policies, which in the past enjoyed a high degree of bipartisan consensus, have now become more divided along partisan lines in the electorate. Yet the mapping between party identification and policy preferences is complex. We observe strong party polarization with respect to allocating water shares to agriculture versus environmental flows, and also to whether environmental regulations should be loosened. There was, however, far less partisan disagreement about the need for temporary emergency water reductions. There was uniformly high support for constructing all forms of water infrastructure, even though the issue is highly polarized at the elite level. Lastly, the public receptivity toward using recycled water is lopsided. A majority of Californians support using recycled water in agriculture, and in homes to flush toilets and water lawn, but resist direct ingestion.
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Recent evidence suggests that changes in atmospheric circulation have altered the probability of extreme climate events in the Northern Hemisphere. We investigate northeastern Pacific atmospheric circulation patterns that have historically (1949-2015) been associated with cool-season (October-May) precipitation and temperature extremes in California. We identify changes in occurrence of atmospheric circulation patterns by measuring the similarity of the cool-season atmospheric configuration that occurred in each year of the 1949-2015 period with the configuration that occurred during each of the five driest, wettest, warmest, and coolest years. Our analysis detects statistically significant changes in the occurrence of atmospheric patterns associated with seasonal precipitation and temperature extremes. We also find a robust increase in the magnitude and subseasonal persistence of the cool-season West Coast ridge, resulting in an amplification of the background state. Changes in both seasonal mean and extreme event configurations appear to be caused by a combination of spatially nonuniform thermal expansion of the atmosphere and reinforcing trends in the pattern of sea level pressure. In particular, both thermal expansion and sea level pressure trends contribute to a notable increase in anomalous northeastern Pacific ridging patterns similar to that observed during the 2012-2015 California drought. Collectively, our empirical findings suggest that the frequency of atmospheric conditions like those during California's most severely dry and hot years has increased in recent decades, but not necessarily at the expense of patterns associated with extremely wet years.
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This research investigated how people’s perceptions of alternative water sources compare with their perceptions of other technologies, and identified significant predictors of comfort with different alternative water sources. We drew on data from four questionnaire survey studies with a total sample of more than 1200 Australian participants. Relative levels of comfort with the alternative water sources was consistent across the four studies: comfort was always highest for drinking rainwater and lowest for drinking recycled water, with comfort with drinking treated stormwater and desalinated water sitting between these two. Although comfort with drinking recycled water was always lowest of the four alternative water sources, participants were significantly more comfortable with drinking recycled water than they were with nuclear energy, or with using genetically modified plants and animals for food. In general, demographic variables were less important predictors of comfort with alternative water sources than were psychological variables; only age and gender emerged as relatively consistent predictors for recycled water, stormwater, and desalinated water, with older participants and males more comfortable with drinking these water sources. Of the psychological variables, participants’ comfort with technology in general, trust in science and trust in government emerged consistently as significant positive predictors of comfort with drinking recycled water, stormwater, and desalinated water.
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There is a worldwide and increasing shortage of potable fresh water. Modern water reclamation technologies can alleviate much of the problem by converting wastewater directly into drinking water, but there is public resistance to these approaches that has its basis largely in psychology. A psychological problem is encapsulated in the saying of those opposing recycled water: "toilet to tap." We report the results of two surveys, one on a sample of over 2,000 Americans from five metropolitan areas and the second on a smaller sample of American undergraduates, both assessing attitudes to water and water purification. Approximately 13% of our adult American sample definitely refuses to try recycled water, while 49% are willing to try it, with 38% uncertain. Both disgust and contamination sensitivity predict resistance to consumption of recycled water. For a minority of individuals, no overt treatment of wastewater will make it acceptable for drinking ("spiritual contagion"), even if the resultant water is purer than drinking or bottled water. Tap water is reliably rated as significantly more desirable than wastewater that has undergone substantially greater purification than occurs with normal tap water. Framing and contagion are two basic psychological processes that influence recycled water rejection.
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A sizeable (and growing) proportion of the public in Western democracies deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change1,2. It is commonly assumed that convincing deniers that climate change is real is necessary for them to act pro-environmentally3,4. However, the likelihood of ‘conversion’ using scientific evidence is limited because these attitudes increasingly reflect ideological positions5,6. An alternative approach is to identify outcomes of mitigation efforts that deniers find important. People have strong interests in the welfare of their society, so deniers may act in ways supporting mitigation efforts where they believe these efforts will have positive societal effects. In Study 1, climate change deniers (N D 155) intended to act more pro-environmentally where they thought climate change action would create a society where people are more considerate and caring, and where there is greater economic/technological development. Study 2 (ND347) replicated this experimentally, showing that framing climate change action as increasing consideration for others, or improving economic/technological development, led to greater pro-environmental action intentions than a frame emphasizing avoiding the risks of climate change. To motivate deniers’ pro-environmental actions, communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society, rather than focusing on the reality of climate change and averting its risks.
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Fear-inducing representations of climate change are widely employed in the public domain. However, there is a lack of clarity in the literature about the impacts that fearful messages in climate change communications have on people's senses of engagement with the issue and associated implications for public engagement strategies. Some literature suggests that using fearful representations of climate change may be counterproductive. The authors explore this assertion in the context of two empirical studies that investigated the role of visual, and iconic, representations of climate change for public engagement respectively. Results demonstrate that although such representations have much potential for attracting people's attention to climate change, fear is generally an ineffective tool for motivating genuine personal engagement. Nonthreatening imagery and icons that link to individuals' everyday emotions and concerns in the context of this macro-environmental issue tend to be the most engaging. Recommendations for constructively engaging individuals with climate change are given.
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Many countries’ water resources are limited in both quantity and quality. While engineering solutions can now safely produce recycled and desalinated water from non-potable sources at a relatively low cost, the general public is sceptical about adopting these alternative water sources. Social scientists, policy makers and technical experts need to better understand what is causing this lack of acceptance by the general population and how acceptance levels for recycled and desalinated water can be increased. This study is the first to conduct a comparative analysis of knowledge, perceptions, and acceptability, and determine segments of residents who are more open-minded than the general population toward the use of recycled and desalinated water. The Australian population once perceived desalinated water as environmentally unfriendly, and recycled water as a public health hazard. The general level of knowledge about these two concepts as potential water sources has historically been low. After nearly five years of serious drought, accompanied by severe water restrictions across most of the country, and subsequent media attention on solutions to water scarcity, Australians now show more acceptance of desalinated water for close-to-body uses, and less resistance to recycled water for garden watering and cleaning uses. The types of people likely to be strong accepters of the two alternative water sources are distinctly different groups, and can be reached through different media mixes. This finding has significant implications for policy makers and water practitioners.
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This paper follows from a previous one by the authors which described the development of a behavioural model to predict community intended behaviour in relation to proposed wastewater recycling schemes where close personal contact is involved. This paper now outlines the confirmation of the robustness of the model for use as a tool by proponents of such recycling schemes, and to provide details of the model's indicator measures, including the "yuck factor", to allow easy applicability to future developments. It outlines the individual items that are asked in a questionnaire format, and provides evidence of the reliability and validity of the measures. The model was replicated and again proved to have a powerful predictive capability. The paper concludes by suggesting how the model can best be used as a tool in the planning and implementation of wastewater reuse schemes and the next steps in gaining public acceptance, particularly for indirect potable uses.
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Australia is facing serious challenges in the management of water in various urban and regional locations. Two popular responses to these challenges are increasing supply through alternative water sources such as recycled and desalinated water. However, significant gaps exist in our knowledge of community attitudes to these alternative sources of water, particularly for potable use. This paper reports results from an Australian study of community attitudes to alternative water sources. Sixty six qualitative interviews were held at eight locations with distinctly different water situations. This paper explores all three antecedents to the behaviour of drinking recycled water and desalinated water as postulated by the Theory of Planned Behaviour: attitudes, social norms and factors of perceived behavioural control. Key results indicate that while people hold both positive and negative beliefs (mostly cost, health and environmental concerns) about water from alternative sources, nearly all of them are willing to drink it if the water crisis were to deteriorate further. People also feel they lack knowledge and state that information from scientists would influence their decision to drink recycled and desalinated water most. Friends and relatives are most influential in preventing people from drinking recycled water. The findings reported in this paper have major implications for water policy, and will be of particular interest to water engineers. The paper raises a provocative question: Is it better to avoid public consultation in introducing water from alternative sources?
Article
Water recycling is increasingly recognized as a critical strategy to maintain sustainable water supplies. Yet public acceptance of water recycling often lags behind. It is unclear the degree to which individuals are aware of the role of disgust in their decisions about recycled water, how important anticipated disgust is to willingness to use when controlling for other factors, and what the most effective method of presenting information about water recycling would be to decrease disgust reactions and increase willingness to use. We used a two-pronged approach, combining a survey with open-ended and psychometric measures with an experimental manipulation, in a U.S., web-based sample (N=428). Only 2% of participants self-identified disgust as important to their decisions about recycled water. When measured directly using a Likert scale, however, anticipated disgust was the strongest predictor of willingness to use recycled water when controlling for individual differences that have been shown to impact willingness to use, including a subscale of individual pathogen disgust sensitivity. Finally, participants were exposed to an educational brochure about water reuse framed either affectively or cognitively or were shown a simple, neutral definition. Exposure to either the affectively or cognitively framed brochures lowered anticipated disgust, but did not significantly affect willingness to use recycled water compared to the neutral condition.
Article
Highlights - We comment on a recent study on information provision on potable recycled water. - Worldviews moderate effects of information on knowledge and positive responses. - Significant effects only exist among those already comfortable with new technology. - Those least likely to support recycled water are unaffected by new information. Abstract Recently, Fielding and Roiko found that information provision affects knowledge of and support for potable recycled water. However, recent cultural–sociological insights suggest that such effects are not universal. A re-analysis of the original data reveals the relevance of cultural predispositions: significant effects only exist in specific subgroups of the population. Only those who are comfortable with new technologies prove receptive to new information about potable recycled water. These findings are relevant for scholars aiming to uncover the mechanisms through which information affects public opinion, and for policymakers trying to overcome community resistance to alternative water sources.
Article
For the past three years (2012-2014), California has experienced the most severe drought conditions in its last century. But how unusual is this event? Here we use two paleoclimate reconstructions of drought and precipitation for Central and Southern California to place this current event in the context of the last millennium. We demonstrate that while 3-year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon, the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years. Tree-ring chronologies extended through the 2014 growing season reveal that precipitation during the drought has been anomalously low but not outside the range of natural variability. The current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures.
Article
Global warming and the associated rise in extreme temperatures substantially increase the chance of concurrent droughts and heatwaves. The 2014 California drought is an archetype of an event characterized by not only low precipitation but also extreme high temperatures. From the raging wildfires, to record low storage levels and snowpack conditions, the impacts of this event can be felt throughout California. Wintertime water shortages worry decision-makers the most because it is the season to build up water supplies for the rest of the year. Here we show that the traditional univariate risk assessment methods based on precipitation condition may substantially underestimate the risk of extreme events such as the 2014 California drought because of ignoring the effects of temperature. We argue that a multivariate viewpoint is necessary for assessing risk of extreme events, especially in a warming climate. This study discusses a methodology for assessing the risk of concurrent extremes such as droughts and extreme temperatures.
Article
Fear-inducing representations of climate change are widely employed in the public domain. However, there is a lack of clarity in the literature about the impacts that fearful messages in climate change communications have on people's senses of engagement with the issue and associated implications for public engagement strategies. Some literature suggests that using fearful representations of climate change may be counterproductive. The authors explore this assertion in the context of two empirical studies that investigated the role of visual, and iconic, representations of climate change for public engagement respectively. Results demonstrate that although such representations have much potential for attracting people's attention to climate change, fear is generally an ineffective tool for motivating genuine personal engagement. Nonthreatening imagery and icons that link to individuals' everyday emotions and concerns in the context of this macro-environmental issue tend to be the most engaging. Recommendations for constructively engaging individuals with climate change are given.
Article
In spite of the clear need to address water security through sourcing new and alternative water supplies, there has been marked resistance from some communities to the introduction of recycled water for potable use. The present studies tested the effectiveness of providing relatively brief information about the recycled water process and the safety of recycled water on cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses. Three information conditions (basic information or basic information plus information about pollutants in the water, or information that puts the risk of chemicals in the water in perspective) were compared to a no information control condition. Across three experiments there was general support for the hypothesis that providing information would result in more positive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to recycled water. Information increased comfort with potable recycled water and, in general, participants in the information conditions expressed more positive emotions (Experiment 1 & 3), less negative emotions (Experiment 3), more support (Experiment 1 & 3), and lower risk perceptions (Experiment 1 & 3) than those in the no information control condition. Participants who received information also drank more recycled water than control participants (Experiment 1 & 2, although the differences between conditions was not statistically significant) and were significantly more likely to vote in favor of the introduction of a recycled water scheme (Experiment 3). There was evidence, however, that providing information about the level of pollutants in recycled water may lead to ambivalent responses.
Article
The 2013-14 California drought was accompanied by an anomalous high-amplitude ridge system. The anomalous ridge was investigated using reanalysis data and the Community Earth System Model (CESM). It was found that the ridge emerged from continual sources of Rossby wave energy in the western North Pacific starting in late summer, and subsequently intensified into winter. The ridge generated a surge of wave energy downwind and deepened further the trough over the northeast U.S., forming a dipole. The dipole and associated circulation pattern is not linked directly with either ENSO or Pacific Decadal Oscillation; instead it is correlated with a type of ENSO precursor. The connection between the dipole and ENSO precursor has become stronger since the 1970s, and this is attributed to increased GHG loading as simulated by the CESM. Therefore, there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.
Article
Increasing demands on water resources have made water reuse an attractive option for extending water supplies in the southwest. However, concerns remain about the potential risks of contact with recycled water. This study focused on perceptions regarding water reuse and how these may affect future utilization of the resource. This study, based on a telephone survey of 400 randomly-selected Arizona residents, was used to assess public opinion of water reuse in the state. Survey results indicated that residents feel it is important for their community to use recycled water. In fact, 76% of those surveyed support using ‘consumer incentives for using recycled water’, and over two-thirds of respondents support ‘increasing water or sewer rates to treat water to higher standards’. Despite this support, the survey revealed that almost two-thirds of the respondents have concerns about recycled water. Those concerns can be alleviated by providing ‘better information about recycled water’. Education level proved to be the most significant demographic affecting perception of terminology and recycled water uses. These results can be used by water agencies – even those outside Arizona – to address community concerns, effectively promote water reuse, and develop more sustainable and accepted alternatives to augment their water portfolios.
Article
In many parts of the world, growing demands for water are beginning to outstrip available supplies, and there is competition among users for available water. Sydney, the capital city of the state of New South Wales in Australia, is an example where urban water demands have reached the capacity of the existing water supply system. The New South Wales state government has introduced new water sharing rules that require increased water allocations for environmental flows to maintain river health, particularly in low flow periods. The government is introducing new planning measures to achieve 40% water savings in new houses compared to the current Sydney baseline. In the case of Sydney, the government has recently released a Metropolitan Water Plan that will enable Sydney to meet environmental flow requirements and cater to growth for the next 30 years. The new planning requirements signi-ficantly increase the opportunities to integrate water recycling into urban water supply systems to increase available supplies and minimise environmental impact. Amendment of the NSW guidelines for urban and residential use of recycled water to allow laundry use would bring down the cost of residential water recycling systems. An example is given as to how a water recycling network could be integrated into the new development areas in Sydney to improve drought security and the environmental outcome by using recycled water for multiple uses including urban, agricultural and environmental. The capital cost, water pricing and energy use implications of such a network are discussed.
Article
A well-organised, comprehensive communications program with stakeholders is essential to any modern water reuse project. To maximise trust between water reuse organisations and stakeholders, the communication process needs to begin long before project plans are drawn up and continue throughout the life of any project. It must begin with the decision to seriously consider the development of a scheme and remain highly visible throughout all of its stages, including planning, construction, implementation and operation. The communications program must also embrace any extensions of the project. This paper relates to a study that was undertaken in the preliminary preparation of a manual of best practice for water recycling operations. The purpose of the study was to provide an understanding of major communication issues to be addressed and successful means of addressing them. Ten key messages to stakeholders were established during the process and are presented here.
Article
This paper considers an Australian community's perspective of the importance of various attributes of recycled water, including, colour, odour and salt, for various uses including, garden watering, toilet flushing and clothes washing. Results found that the importance of achieving aesthetic levels of these attributes increased as the applied use became increasingly personal. For example respondents rated the attributes of 'no colour' and 'no odour' of extreme importance for clothes washing, but they were not rated as important for toilet flushing or garden watering. Importance was placed on different attributes of recycled water quality and its delivery, depending on the specified use, with 'low salt' rated very important for garden watering in particular. This variation in attribute/use combinations suggests that the parameters of recycled water quality and delivery should be determined 'fit for purpose.' It is recommended that the parameters be established in consultation with the community involved, to determine the importance each community places on the various attributes of recycled water, for differing uses. Such an approach will ensure the quality of the recycled water will be to the community's satisfaction, providing a solid platform to successful implementation of recycled water use. Thus, the attributes of recycled water that make it fit for residential purposes vary depending on the use to which it is applied.
Article
Introducing reclaimed water as an alternative to the traditional mains water supply involves change in practices as well as technology. Therefore, the social effects of innovative solutions to sustainable water management need to be carefully considered. This paper will present findings from research undertaken in California and Florida, USA, and Australia. What is the community response to recycling reclaimed water? Are there ways of involving the public so that the change involved in introducing reclaimed water achieves sustainable outcomes? Results from a series of case studies where indirect potable reuse has been planned will be considered along with the findings from a range of industry surveys, mainly conducted in the USA. In relation to non potable reuse, this paper will cover acceptance of some of the main uses, and householder's experience of recycling water for residential use. The resulting analysis suggests that the shift from traditional, centrally controlled water supplies to innovative alternatives, requires a corresponding shift in resources to support what is essentially a social transformation in water service delivery and management.
Article
In this paper, we present data from a three-mode survey comparison study carried out in 2010. National surveys were fielded at the same time over the Internet (using an opt-in Internet panel), by telephone with live interviews (using a national RDD sample of landlines and cell phones), and by mail (using a national sample of residential addresses). Each survey utilized a nearly identical questionnaire soliciting information across a range of political and social indicators, many of which can be validated with government data. Comparing the findings from the modes to each other and the validated benchmarks, we demonstrate that a carefully executed opt-in Internet panel produces estimates that are as accurate as a telephone survey and that the two modes differ little in their estimates of other political indicators and their correlates.
Article
This paper considers ways in which water undertakers in the USA have overcome problems associated with pre-conceived negative opinions regarding water recycling. Three key recycling sites in California were identified, and a survey of the principal players and stakeholders was undertaken.Research has indicated that outreach and educational programmes must be proactive in nature, focusing on the value of reclaimed water and emphasising the benefits to be gained from its use at an individual. community and environmental level. Recommendations are made regarding the format of public outreach programmes, stakeholder action plans and conclusions drawn regarding public opinion. Unless (and until) the concept is accepted by the general public, large-scale water-recycling projects, which ultimately include ingestion of the recycled product, are likely to fail.
Article
The emergence of a global water crisis has seen the necessity for a sustainable approach to water management. Policies directed towards water recycling have been implemented in many regions of the world. In Australia, prolonged drought conditions in most major cities during the past decade have led to serious national calls for less drinking water to be used (Prime Minister’s Science Engineering and Innovation Council, 2003), and a strategic policy response from many State Governments, including bold targets for water recycling. A key consideration to the realisation of these policies is greater understanding of community attitudes to recycled water use, without which, a number of recycled water projects have failed (Hurlimann and McKay, 2004). Despite the critical nature of community attitudes, little research has been conducted, especially in relation to perception of risk, which has been found to be critical in the adoption of new technologies (Cvetkovich and Lofstedt, 1999). This paper investigates an urban Australian community’s perception of risk involved with using recycled water. Key findings include: perception of risk increased as the use of recycled water became increasingly personal. Perception of risk was significantly negatively related to trust, perception of fairness and information. Trust in the Water Authority to manage risk was significantly related to perception of trust, communication and integrity of the Authority.
Article
Communications regarding climate change are increasingly being utilised in order to encourage sustainable behaviour and the way that these are framed can significantly alter the impact that they have on the recipient. This experimental study seeks to investigate how transferable existing research findings on framing from health and behavioural research are to the climate change case. The study (N = 161) examined how framing the same information about climate change in terms of gain or loss outcomes and in terms of local or distant impacts can affect perceptions. Text on potential climate change impacts was adapted from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, alongside maps and images of potential flooding impacts. Participants then completed measures of various relevant socio-cognitive factors and questions assessing their responses to the information that they had received. Results indicated that, ceteris paribus, gain frames were superior to loss frames in increasing positive attitudes towards climate change mitigation, and also increased the perceived severity of climate change impacts. However, third variable analyses demonstrated that the superiority of the gain frame was partially suppressed by lower fear responses and poorer information recall within gain framed information. In addition, framing climate change impacts as distant (whilst keeping information presented the same) resulted in climate change impacts being perceived as more severe, whilst attitudes towards climate change mitigation were more positive when participants were asked to consider social rather than personal aspects of climate change. Implications for designing communications about climate change are outlined.
Article
{textlessptextgreatertextless}br/textgreaterCommunicating possible effects of climate change inevitably involves uncertainty. Because people are generally averse to uncertainty, this activity has the potential to undermine effective action more than stimulate it. The present research considered how framing climate change predictions differently might moderate the tendency for uncertainty to undermine individual action. Two studies (Ns = 88 and 120) show that higher uncertainty combined with a negative frame (highlighting possible losses) decreased individual intentions to behave environmentally. However when higher uncertainty was combined with a positive frame (highlighting the possibility of losses not materializing) this produced stronger intentions to act. Study 2 revealed that these effects of uncertainty were mediated through feelings of efficacy. These results suggest that uncertainty is not an inevitable barrier to action, provided communicators frame climate change messages in ways that trigger caution in the face of uncertainty.textless/ptextgreater
Article
The use of recycled water is being promoted through policy in many parts of the world with the aim of achieving sustainable water management. However there are some major barriers to the success of recycled water use policies and their instruments, in particular for potable reuse schemes. One of these barriers can be a lack of community support. Despite the critical nature of community attitudes to recycled water to the success of projects, they are often little understood. Further information is required to ensure the successful implementation of recycled water policy and to ensure sustainable management of water resources is achieved. The aim of this paper is to establish the key components of community satisfaction with recycled water. This was investigated through a case study of the Mawson Lakes population in South Australia, where recycled water is used for non-potable purposes through a dual water supply system (the 'recycled water system'). This paper reports results from a survey of 162 Mawson Lakes residents. A structural equation model (SEM) was developed and tested to explain and predict components of community satisfaction with recycled water use (for non-potable use) through the dual water supply system. Results indicate the components of satisfaction with recycled water use were an individual's positive perception of: the Water Authority's communication, trust in the Water Authority, fairness in the recycled water system's implementation, quality of the recycled water, financial value of the recycled water system, and risk associated with recycled water use (negative relationship). The results of this study have positive implications for the future management and implementation of recycled water projects in particular through dual water supply systems. The results indicate to water authorities and water policy developers guiding principles for community consultation with regards to the management of recycled water projects.
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Water Policy and Partisanship in California. Working paper. https://www.researchgate.net/ publication/315027609_Water_Policy_and_Partisanship_ in_California Hurlimann, A. (2007) Is Recycled Water Use Risky? An Urban Australian Community's Perspective
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