Predicting community behaviour in relation to wastewater reuse: What drives decisions to accept or reject?

Waste management Behavioural insights Regulator strategy Australia

This reports the results of a three-year investigation which aimed to develop a measurement of prediction of community intended behaviour in relation to the reuse of different wastewaters for different uses. It has been apparent that communities support the concept of water reuse as a means of responsible water resources management. However, many technically sound schemes internationally have failed because communities have rejected them. Little has been known of how people make their decisions to accept or reject schemes. Public acceptance, therefore, has been viewed as an “obstacle” to implementing reuse schemes and so the emphasis has been principally on persuasion. However, it is now generally accepted that social marketing and persuasion are ineffective. Until now, it has been difficult to know what to replace them with as there have been no systematic programs of social investigation to identify the different factors that might influence public perceptions or mediate their decision making. International literature reviews found little that specifically related to the recycling of water, however, a number of parallel literatures (eg. food technology) provided some insights. Therefore, a research program was designed to systematically investigate, identify, measure and test the major factors that govern people’s decisions about whether to use recycled water for different uses or whether to reject the schemes.

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