Without improved water resource management, it is predicted that water shortages will affect two-thirds of humanity by 2025. One solution that has traditionally faced fierce public resistance is recycled waste water. This study investigates the extent to which public communication strategies can influence community acceptance of recycled water, using the framework of Inoculation Theory. A four-phase experimental design was conducted. Participants completed an initial questionnaire and were then randomly assigned to a control group, a manipulation check group or a treatment group. A final follow-up survey measured changes in the dependent variable: stated likelihood of using recycled water for different uses. Results indicate that communication strategies based on Inoculation Theory are limited in their effectiveness for this product category. Findings do, however, identify a clear recency effect, indicating that continuous public communications are key to ensuring that community scare campaigns do not prevent implementation of water augmentation projects. This study differs from previous applications of Inoculation Theory because of the challenges associated with marketing a monopoly commodity, which is a necessity to support life. This empirical study uses fictional marketing stimuli to test the theory in a context, which is growing in global importance.
Kemp, B., Randle, M. J., Hurlimann, A. & Dolnicar, S. (2012). Community acceptance of recycled water - can we inoculate the public against scare campaigns?. Journal of Public Affairs, 12 (4), 337-346.