Public acceptability of indirect potable water reuse in the south-east of England

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Public controversy over planned indirect potable reuse of wastewater has been a significant obstacle to implementing proposed schemes in the United States and Australia. Surveys of public attitudes to water reuse have generally shown lower acceptance of indirect potable reuse compared with other reuse options, such as irrigation. The south-east of England is projected to experience a shortfall in water supply by 2020 and the largest water utility in the region, Thames Water, is investigating indirect potable reuse as a potential new supply option. The indirect potable reuse feasibility studies include evaluation of the technology options and water quality as well as detailed consideration of public perception issues. As part of the work to address the latter, 2,000 Thames Water customers participated in an on-line survey of their attitudes to indirect potable reuse. The survey showed overall support for the idea of indirect potable reuse. The only demographic factor to show any significant difference from the whole sample was belief system, with Muslim respondents showing significantly less support than other groups. The survey results indicate that indirect potable reuse may be socially acceptable in the south-east of England, but that public engagement and participation in future decision making about indirect potable reuse will be important for the success of any particular proposal.

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