Conclusions

In this chapter, results from an Australian survey study conducted in January 2009 have been reported. The public's stated likelihood of using recycled and desalinated water for a range of 14 purposes was compared and attitudinal factors associated with different levels of stated likelihood of use were explored.

Results indicate that, as opposed to previous research [16,17], Australians express a higher likelihood of using desalinated water then recycled water for all household uses included in the survey. Differences were insignificant for low contact uses such as toilet flushing, but were highly significant for high contact uses, such as drinking, bathing the baby, brushing teeth, and cooking.

Significant differences between recycled and desalinated water were also found with respect to attitude statements. A number ofattitudinal statements were also found to be significantly associated with higher levels of stated likelihood of use. For both water sources, the following three attitudes had significantly higher mean ratings for likelihood of use: those who disagree that the taste/smell of the water source is bad; those who agree that the alternative water source is OK as long as it is clean; and those who disagree that there are too many health risks associated with the source ofwater's use.

When asked about their attitudes toward recycled and desalinated water, it becomes evident from the responses that the primary concern of people relating to recycled water remains public health, whereas the main weakness perceived in relation to desalinated water appears to be its cost (58%) and caution about what is actually in the water (62%). Also, 48% of respondents raised environmental concerns (this question was not asked for recycled water). The cost and environmental concern appear to be outweighed by health concerns, because the stated likelihood of use levels are consistently higher for desalinated water than for recycled water. Finally, the vast majority of Australians are willing to accept water from alternative sources if it is absolutely necessary.

The findings from this study have major implications for water policy: first, it appears that the fertile ground for public resistance is the perception of choice. When the public feels that introducing water from alternative sources into their tap water is a choice they make (or a public policy decision they want to boycott) resistance is more likely to occur than in the situation where people are aware that there are no other viable options and using water from alternative sources is not actually an option but a necessity. To date, public policy makers in Australia have not used this line of argument toward the public much, leaving the impression that indeed it is a choice.

Second, given that the Australian public does appear to view water augmentation as a matter of choice, it may be necessary to provide the public with more factual information about water alternatives. The attitudinal factors found in our study to be significantly associated with higher stated likelihood of using recycled and desalinated water, could inform public communication plans. For example, sources of potential health hazards should be outlined clearly, clarifying also that health risks are inherent wherever any kind of water is transported over significant distances. It appears that factual information may be the best counter-measure against people developing unreasonable health concerns. To date, little factual information has been provided to the Australian public. Some water authorities add flyers with messages about water conservation and water augmentation projects to their bill mailouts. However there is currently no wide-scale independent source of information that would enable Australians to inform themselves about facts relating to current tap, recycled, desalinated water as well as other water options, which are widely used in Australia. These other sources may also be perceived as unhealthy but are typically not perceived as such by the population because they are "close to home'' (e.g., rainwater tanks).

Finally, the uses of alternative water sources for which people have a higher level of acceptance could be used to increase people's experience with these kinds of water and increase acceptance for other uses. This recommendation was made a long time ago by Baumann and Kasperson [29] who suggested to "put the reclaimed water in an attractive setting and invite the public to look at it, sniff it, picnic around it, fish in it, and swim in it'' (p. 670).

In sum, results indicate that Australians have a differentiated view of different kinds of water from alternative sources. As such, a range of public policy measures could be taken to provide the public with factual information and experience to increase their acceptance and improve their attitudes.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Waste Management And Control

Waste Management And Control

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Understanding Waste Management. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To The Truth about Environment, Waste and Landfills.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment