Home\Educate\Water Reuse 101\Research Projects\Year\2013\Downstream – Context, Understanding, Acceptance: Effect of Prior Knowledge of Unplanned Potable Reuse on the Acceptance of Planned Potable Reuse

Downstream – Context, Understanding, Acceptance: Effect of Prior Knowledge of Unplanned Potable Reuse on the Acceptance of Planned Potable Reuse

Project: 09-01
Year Released: 2013
Type: Communications Tool

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, GE Water, Water Services Association of Australia, Suez Environment
Total Investment: $260,849.42 (Cash: $196,140.67, In-Kind: $64,708.75)

Principal Investigators: Linda Macpherson, CH2M HILL, and Shane Snyder, Ph.D., University of Arizona


Researchers have determined that the public must accept the idea of drinking water reuse before it can become a key strategy for sustainable water supply. Vocal public opposition to reuse projects, even those that do not involve drinking water reuse, has halted projects from being implemented.

Goals and Objectives

The project evaluates whether people are likelier to accept drinking water reuse when they understand the full context of the water cycle: that all water is used and reused. Specifically, that treated wastewater effluent is discharged into rivers that become sources of drinking water downstream. This project did not address reuse resulting from the discharge of treated wastewater effluent to groundwater.

Research Approach

The research team hypothesized that public understanding of drinking water reuse in the context of the water cycle and, in particular, the urban water cycle of use and reuse (as distinguished from the natural water cycle) would increase acceptance of drinking water reuse projects. By presenting drinking water reuse in the context of the urban water cycle, the research team made a clear connection between humans and hydrology, particularly in the urban setting.

This project tests the research hypothesis in two different research forums: qualitative focus group investigations and quantitative survey research. The team conducted a literature review to (1) evaluate whether water reuse is presented or discussed in context of the water cycle, (2) determine the relationship between knowledge and risk perception in other common but often misunderstood technologies, and (3) review websites associated with drinking water reuse projects.

Findings and Conclusions

This project also developed an educational presentation titled Downstream which can be viewed here.

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