Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Lauren N. Distler - University of New Mexico
Co-Author(s): Dr. Caroline Scruggs, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM; Dr. Jenn Thacher, 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 design, development, distribution, and analysis of a large-scale survey (sample size n=4,000) 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 educational materials were 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. The response rate for the survey was 45.8%. Water managers in New Mexico and other arid inland regions can use the final results of this survey to make informed decisions on public communication and education processes, which are necessary to the success of wastewater reuse projects.Not Submitted
Funder Acknowledgement(s): CREST, National Science Foundation (award 1345169)
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Caroline Scruggs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I designed the survey through independent study, developed the survey instrument through focus groups and debriefing sessions, administered the pretest and main surveys, and am working toward completing the statistical analysis of the data.