Publication Details

Dolnicar, S. & Hurlimann, A. (2009). Drinking water from alternative water sources: differences in beliefs, social norms and factors of perceived behavioural control across eight Australian locations. Water Science & Technology, 60 (6), 1433-1444.


Australia is facing serious challenges in the management of water in various urban and regional locations. Two popular responses to these challenges are increasing supply through alternative water sources such as recycled and desalinated water. However, significant gaps exist in our knowledge of community attitudes to these alternative sources of water, particularly for potable use. This paper reports results from an Australian study of community attitudes to alternative water sources. Sixty six qualitative interviews were held at eight locations with distinctly different water situations. This paper explores all three antecedents to the behaviour of drinking recycled water and desalinated water as postulated by the Theory of Planned Behaviour: attitudes, social norms and factors of perceived behavioural control. Key results indicate that while people hold both positive and negative beliefs (mostly cost, health and environmental concerns) about water from alternative sources, nearly all of them are willing to drink it if the water crisis were to deteriorate further. People also feel they lack knowledge and state that information from scientists would influence their decision to drink recycled and desalinated water most. Friends and relatives are most influential in preventing people from drinking recycled water. The findings reported in this paper have major implications for water policy, and will be of particular interest to water engineers. The paper raises a provocative question: Is it better to avoid public consultation in introducing water from alternative sources?



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