passed through systems perceived to be natural. Aquifer storage for 10 years was favored over aquifer storage for 1 year, and passing water down a swift-flowing river for 100 miles was preferred over passing water down a 1-mile stretch. Aquifer storage overall was preferred to passage down a river (Haddad et al., 2010).

According to Haddad et al. (2010), local independent (e.g., university) scientists are viewed by the public as the most credible sources of information on reclaimed water (see Table 10-6), because they combine topical expertise and knowledge of the local situation and have no professional stake in water management decisions. Dolnicar and Hurliman (2009), in qualitative interviews, found friends and relatives to be the most trusted sources of information on whether to drink reclaimed water. However, those negatively predisposed to potable reuse were least willing to be convinced of its efficacy by anyone, although relative rankings of trusted sources were generally consistent among all respondents regardless of their willingness to drink reclaimed water (Haddad et al., 2010).

Public Communication

The choice of words matters when describing water reuse. Menegaki et al. (2009), studying farming behaviors on the Island of Crete, identify differences in farmers’ willingness to pay for reclaimed water based on whether it is called “recycled water” or “treated wastewater.” Haddad et al. (2010) found that even individuals who were strongly opposed to indirect potable reuse could be influenced by paragraphs that cast water reuse in a positive light. Macpherson and Slovic (2011) found that the water reuse profession does not have standard definitions for commonly used technical terms, and this causes confusion among customers. They have generated a glossary of terms and advocate that the profession adopt it as standard terms and definitions.

The sophistication of communication between water agencies and the public continues to evolve (Box 10-9). There is more public outreach, including visitor centers and tours at water reclamation facilities, more Web sites, and better communications with regional political leaders and media outlets. Surveys in Australia by Dolnicar et al. (2010) and in Barcelona, Spain, by Domenech and Sauri (2010) found that knowledge of the water treatment process increased acceptance of water reuse. One often cited example of public relations success is Singapore’s NEWater Facility, which invested extensively in a visitor center. Positive media coverage of water reuse in Singapore compared with Australia is also recognized as a factor influencing the success of water reuse (Ching and Yu, 2010). However, it is difficult to ascertain if the absence of domestic opposition to the NEWater program is because of the successful visitor center, positive press coverage, cultural differences, national policies that limit civic discourse, or all of these reasons. In the United States, tours of water reuse facilities are common, but to date, research has not been undertaken to link tours

TABLE 10-6 Trusted Source of Information on Reclaimed Water Safety: Overall and by Willingness to Drink “Certified Safe Recycled Water” on a Scale of 0-10

Overalla Unwillingb Uncertainb Willingb
An actor or athlete you admire hired to represent the water treatment facility 2.14 1.05 1.79 2.54
Your neighbor 3.20*** 2.30 2.83 3.64
A private firm hired by the water treatment facility 4.11*** 2.55 3.40 4.87
The manager of the water treatment facility 4.62*** 3.00 4.07 5.27
Staff of the water treatment facility 4.67 3.32 4.00 5.36
A doctor who lives nearby 4.68 3.65 4.00 5.33
Someone who has drunk reclaimed water for years 5.06** 3.18 4.60 5.74
A board made up of engineers and other representative of the community 5.70*** 3.48 5.05 6.58
Engineers/inspectors from the federal government 5.88 3.78 5.02 6.85
Engineers/inspectors from the state government 5.95 4.02 5.09 6.86
A qualified scientist from a nearby university 6.59*** 5.15 6.25 7.08

a The items are arranged from top to bottom in terms of increasing trust for the full sample (overall). Asterisks indicate that the value is significantly different from the item immediately above it. * = p < .05, ** = p < .01, *** = p < .001

b By willingness: ANOVAs on all rows for trust as a function of membership in the three groups are significant at p < .001.

SOURCE: Haddad et al. (2010).

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