Australia, like many other regions worldwide, is facing a serious water crisis. The main source of water supply in Australia is rainwater stored in dams. Over the past decade, rainfall has decreased in many parts of the country. Thus the reliability of the supply of water harvested in dams is decreasing. Information regarding future rainfall projections for some parts of the country (such as Victoria) indicates that this shortfall will continue in future . This pressure on supply is in addition to pressure from population growth. Thus if per capita water demand remains constant, pressure on supplies is expected to increase significantly.
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Sustainability Science and Engineering, Volume 2 ISSN 1871-2711, DOI 10.1016/S1871-2711(09)00213-X
© 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
As a consequence, many states in Australia affected by the drought have commenced planning and at times construction and implementation of large-scale water augmentation projects such as water recycling and desalination [2-6]. The technical solutions for such water augmentation projects are available and have been used in other countries for many years. The challenge in Australia, however, has been public resistance to alternative water sources. However, this challenge is not new. Dishman et al.  concluded 20 years ago that - while technical aspects of potable water reuse can be resolved - "the issue of public acceptance could kill the proposal'' (p. 158). Many researchers since Dishman have called for more research on community acceptance of water from alternative sources [8-10].
Increased understanding of the public's attitudes can help in the process of successfully implementing sustainable water augmentation projects. Additionally, it may have a positive influence on policy, to be developed in line with community aspirations. Past work has focused mainly on recycled water, but other sources of water should be included in social research on water alternatives in the future, most importantly desalination, but also other options such as gray water, stormwater etc.
In this chapter, we report on a recent study comparing the Australian public's attitude toward recycled and desalinated water. In so doing we contribute to the understanding of public acceptance of water from alternative sources and provide possible explanations for the substantial differences in people's willingness to adopt recycled and desalinated water.
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