Publication Details

This article was originally published as: Dolnicar, S. & Schäfer, AI, Public perception of desalinated versus recycled water in Australia. CD Proceedings of the AWWA Desalination Symposium 2006.


Water resources are limited in both quantity and quality. In the continuum of the global water cycle, an interesting debate emerges regarding the acceptance and suitability of water recycling. The motivation for water recycling is mostly the realization that human water consumption has increased beyond sustainable levels, resulting in extended periods of ‘drought’, depletion of environmental flows in natural water systems and the decrease in healthy levels in drinking water reservoirs, including groundwater systems. However, the public often vehemently reject water recycling activities and as a result recycled water is available in countries with severe water restrictions, but clients for this recycled water often cannot be found. Several public consultation studies have been carried out to explore reasons for this resistance and how to gain community support. In a different approach to circumvent the difficulties with recycled water acceptance, some countries are considering to desalinate seawater to provide the shortfall in drinking water and avoid public acceptance problems. Of interest in this current research is the evaluation of the perception of recycled versus desalinated water, the comparative acceptance of the community of recycled versus desalinated water, the determination of which water the population surveyed would be willing to consider for a range of applications and the assessment of which the major concerns of adopting these alternative water sources currently are. The study is conducted in the Australian context.