We know that ratepayers who understand the technology behind treating wastewater to potable standards are more likely to support incorporating potable water reuse into their water systems. However, investing limited outreach and education resources is a daunting task with limited guidance. Over the last three years, I’ve been supporting a study sponsored by the Water Research Foundation to establish tools and best practices for purified water recycling demonstration facilities and communications, and I’m excited to share some takeaways from our research.
About the study
As more communities turn to water recycling to support the sustainability of their water systems, ratepayer buy-in is critical to successful implementation. Though the technology for treating wastewater to potable standards is proven, reliable, and often cost effective, public opinion can present a challenge to more widespread implementation of potable water reuse.
We already know that most water customers and stakeholders are accepting of water reuse when they are properly informed about the safety, effectiveness, and sustainability of the technologies used. The Water Research Foundation’s Project #4979, Purified Recycled Water Demonstration Design & Communication Toolbox, aims to provide a roadmap and resources for utilities planning to implement substantial public outreach and education projects. The final suite of deliverables can be used by any water utility that wants to make the case onsite that water reuse is safe, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective.
The project research team conducted interviews with staff members of utilities with public demonstration facilities, and exhibit design professionals about the exhibit design process. We also collected photos, videos, and virtual tours of demonstration facilities and exhibits around the world, and tested the format and messaging with ratepayers in the United States and Australia.