A Better Approach Is Needed To Overcome Potable Reuse Objections

January 15, 2020

A Better Approach Is Needed To Overcome Potable Reuse Objections

Source: Aerzen


Reuse is expected to be a key to long-term water security. But despite the necessity and the technological advancements that make it possible — as well as the fact that global water supplies are all part of the same cycle — a big hurdle remains. While recycled water is increasingly used for irrigating golf courses and refilling aquifers, widespread adoption as a drinking water source is reliant on overcoming lingering public perceptions.

Let’s face it: The thought of ingesting something that was once wastewater is unappealing to many. However, this isn’t from a lack of effort on the part of the industry to change the mindset.

Within the last year, the EPA announced a draft action plan for national water reuse, beer made with recycled water was introduced to the world, and Los Angeles announced it would recycle all of the city’s sewage into drinkable water. The L.A. plan involves an $8 billion investment over 16 years in which recycling would provide as much as 35 percent of the city’s water (up from the current 2 percent).

Nevertheless, reuse hasn’t been widely accepted. Yet.

Recycled wastewater generally evokes reactions of disgust, according to a series of studies by University of California-Riverside researchers published recently in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology. So, if people disgusted by the notion of recycled wastewater are educated on its safety and benefits, will their attitudes change, and will they change their behaviors?

The simple answer is “no.”

Based on their studies, the researchers argue that marketing and education campaigns limited to only pro-recycled wastewater internet videos about water scarcity and conservation are likely doomed to fail. Instead, they say it is necessary to attack the more visceral roadblock of disgust. For example, videos highlighting the extent of water purification in recycling plants must be included as part of larger campaigns to change behaviors.

"Disgust is an exceptionally robust motivation that may require stronger intervention to overcome," said one researcher.

The bottom line is that people need to see and understand the technology to buy into the concept of reuse.

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