Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Lauren Distler - University of New Mexico
Co-Author(s): Caroline Scruggs, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
In New Mexico and much of the American Southwest, ensuring clean and reliable drinking water supplies for the future is one of the biggest existing planning challenges. Climate change is expected to increase the likelihood and duration of droughts in the region, and population growth will further increase the demand for clean drinking water. These environmental changes will make it much more difficult to reliably predict annual water supplies, increasing the need to plan to incorporate more diverse and reliable water sources. One such source is potable wastewater reuse. Though technologies for large-scale potable reuse have long been available, these projects have not been widely implemented. One of the main barriers to implementation of water reuse projects is the perceptions and attitudes of the public. Misinformation and instances of poor public communication have contributed to a negative stigma surrounding wastewater reuse, and public opposition has historically prevented implementation of water infrastructure projects. Therefore, it is vitally important to consider the information the public receives on the topic during planning and implementation, and the sources from which that information comes. This research involves the distribution of a large-scale survey (sample size n=8,000) to water utility customers in Albuquerque, NM, with the purpose of determining public acceptance levels of potable water reuse, and if the type of information provided impacts acceptance levels. Concern for the environment and knowledge of hydrologic processes have been linked to increased acceptance of water reuse, so the educational materials will be based on the following topics: 1) water scarcity and reliability of supplies, 2) the environmental benefits of wastewater reuse, and 3) the urban water cycle and current reuse practices. Water managers in New Mexico can use this information to make informed decisions on the public communication and education processes, which are necessary to the success of wastewater reuse projects.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): CREST- National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1345169.
Faculty Advisor: Caroline Scruggs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: As a graduate research assistant, I have been tasked with: 1.) Survey design; 2.) Survey development: review of literature, lead focus groups and debriefings; 3.) Survey implementation and analysis of results.