Interview H.M. Smith and J.A.G. Frijns - New surveys reveal that social acceptance of water reuse isn't the biggest challange


“A new set of European surveys have revealed that the perceived “yuck factor” typically predicted as a public reaction to wastewater recycling “might not be considered as bad”. An anticipated negative perception of water recycling, or wastewater reuse, is frequently cited as a stumbling block when delivering large-scale water recycling projects. However, the surveys have revealed that the public is more open to wastewater recycling than the water sector has historically believed. Issued by Cranfield University to over 2,500 participants in the UK, Spain, and the Netherlands, the surveys focused on recycled water for drinking purposes and recovered nutrients to grow food. They intended to find up-to-date views on the state of acceptance of wastewater recycling, especially with more projects coming online.
Survey results and social networks – Headline results showed that in the Netherlands, 75% of respondents supported or strongly supported the use of recycled water for drinking, compared to 67% in the UK and 73% in Spain. There was also higher support for consuming food grown using recovered nutrients from wastewater than drinking recycled water in all three countries. Dr Heather Smith, senior lecturer in Water Governance at Cranfield University, said this is due to the perceived closer connection between clean water and wastewater than recovered nutrients and food. “We looked at the drivers behind people’s reactions, and there is a powerful influence from what we call social norms,” Dr Smith said. “Opinions on both recycled water and food were strongly affected by beliefs in their immediate networks.””

(Citation: Interview H.M. Smith and J.A.G. Frijns – New surveys reveal that social acceptance of water reuse isn’t the biggest challange – (2021)28 October)

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