Water Resources Management

, Volume 29, Issue 12, pp 4501–4518 | Cite as

Comparing Public Perceptions of Alternative Water Sources for Potable Use: The Case of Rainwater, Stormwater, Desalinated Water, and Recycled Water

  • Kelly S. FieldingEmail author
  • John Gardner
  • Zoe Leviston
  • Jennifer Price


This research investigated how people’s perceptions of alternative water sources compare with their perceptions of other technologies, and identified significant predictors of comfort with different alternative water sources. We drew on data from four questionnaire survey studies with a total sample of more than 1200 Australian participants. Relative levels of comfort with the alternative water sources was consistent across the four studies: comfort was always highest for drinking rainwater and lowest for drinking recycled water, with comfort with drinking treated stormwater and desalinated water sitting between these two. Although comfort with drinking recycled water was always lowest of the four alternative water sources, participants were significantly more comfortable with drinking recycled water than they were with nuclear energy, or with using genetically modified plants and animals for food. In general, demographic variables were less important predictors of comfort with alternative water sources than were psychological variables; only age and gender emerged as relatively consistent predictors for recycled water, stormwater, and desalinated water, with older participants and males more comfortable with drinking these water sources. Of the psychological variables, participants’ comfort with technology in general, trust in science and trust in government emerged consistently as significant positive predictors of comfort with drinking recycled water, stormwater, and desalinated water.


Public perceptions Rainwater Stormwater Desalinated water Recycled water 



This research was supported by the Urban Water Security Research Alliance and through funding from the Australian Research Council grant FT100100704.

Conflict of Interest

No conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly S. Fielding
    • 1
    Email author
  • John Gardner
    • 2
  • Zoe Leviston
    • 3
  • Jennifer Price
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Social Science ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Land and WaterEcosciences PrecinctDutton ParkAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Land and WaterWembleyAustralia

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