Water alternatives-who and what influences public acceptance?



Publication Details

Dolnicar, S. & Hurlimann, A. (2011). Water alternatives-who and what influences public acceptance?. Journal of Public Affairs, 11 (1), 49-59.


Water supports life, society, the environment and the economy, therefore, the task of ensuring a nation's water supply is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of every government. Water management has become a greater challenge due to the increased demand for water as a result of population growth and the impact of climate change on the variability of rainfall. In response, many cities have implemented plans to augment their traditional water supplies (e.g. dams and groundwater) with new or alternative sources (e.g. recycled wastewater and desalinated sea water). Historical evidence suggests that in order for water augmentation projects to be successfully implemented, the support of the general public is required. It is thus critical to understand the factors which influence people's attitudes regarding water-related matters. The aim of this study is to identify these influencing factors. Results from an empirical study including both qualitative and quantitative components indicate that a number of factors are influential in the public's acceptance of alternative water sources, including research findings, the experience of water shortage, consideration for future generations and news, facts and other publicized information. Notably, politicians and the government were rated by respondents as having a low level of influence. Factors which may determine differences in influence were explored. This revealed a small number of differences for people with low acceptance levels of recycled and desalinated water, and for people with higher levels of education. Systematic differences were identified by comparing the general Australian population with that of Toowoomba, a regional town in Queensland where a referendum on a water recycling project was held. Policy implications are discussed.

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