Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 131–140 | Cite as

Assessing Pro-environmental Behaviour in Relation to the Management of Pollution from Private Sewage Systems

  • Will Joseph BrownlieEmail author
  • Bryan Spears
  • Sandhya Patidar
  • May Linda
  • Susan Roaf


Recent studies suggest that 80 % of the estimated 1.5 million private sewage systems (PSS) in the UK are working inefficiently, potentially threatening drinking water quality and human health, as well as providing a significant source of phosphorus (P) to freshwater bodies, increasing vulnerability to eutrophication. In this report we explore pro-environmental behaviours of PSS users that potentially offer significant reduction in both PSS system failure and P discharge by 1) reducing P input to the PSS by modifying domestic behaviour, and 2) reducing the risk of PSS failure by improving maintenance of the PSS. A detailed questionnaire of 156 PSS users in the catchment of Loch Leven, Scotland, UK, revealed 70 % of users feel responsible for maintaining their PSS, 46 % are potentially maintaining them ineffectively, nearly 30 % have poorly installed systems and 45 % report their PSS had, at some point, blocked or overflowed. Our results indicate that the most effective action to improve PSS operation would be to provide better guidance on low P lifestyles and correct PSS maintenance with an improvement in the provision of facilities to support these pro-environmental behaviours.


Pro-environmental behaviour Phosphorus Septic tanks Private sewage system Policy 

Supplementary material

10745_2015_9728_MOESM1_ESM.doc (40 kb)
Supplementary table 3 Survey questions concerning socio-demographic variation and domestic behaviour, the controlling factors they address and explanatory statistics describing responses. (DOC 40 kb)
10745_2015_9728_MOESM2_ESM.doc (35 kb)
Supplementary table 4 Survey questions concerning maintenance behaviour and the public perception of the problem, the controlling factors they address and explanatory statistics describing responses. (DOC 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Will Joseph Brownlie
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bryan Spears
    • 1
  • Sandhya Patidar
    • 2
  • May Linda
    • 1
  • Susan Roaf
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre of Ecology and HydrologyEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Heriot Watt UniversityEdinburghUK

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