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Hydrology 2016, 3(1), 8; doi:10.3390/hydrology3010008

Exploring Perceptions and Behaviors about Drinking Water in Australia and New Zealand: Is It Risky to Drink Water, When and Why?

1
School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga 2650, Australia
2
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga 2650, Australia
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Tamim Younos, Tammy E. Parece and Alaina J. Armel
Received: 1 October 2015 / Revised: 11 February 2016 / Accepted: 16 February 2016 / Published: 19 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Intersection of Society and Watershed Science)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1035 KB, uploaded 19 February 2016]   |  

Abstract

Consumers in most developed countries, including Australia and New Zealand, presume their drinking water is safe. How social perceptions about drinking water are formed, however, remains inadequately explored in the research literature. This research contributes exploratory insights by examining factors that affect consumer perceptions and behaviors. Individual perceptions of drinking water quality and actions undertaken to mitigate perceived risks were collected during 183 face-to-face interviews conducted at six research sites. Qualitative thematic analysis revealed the majority did not consider drinking water a “risky” activity, trusted water management authorities to manage all safety issues and believed self-evaluation of drinking water’s taste and appearance were sufficient measures to ensure safe consumption. Quantitatively, significant relationships emerged between water quality perceptions and sex, employment status, drinking water treatment and trust in government to provide safe water. Expert advice was rarely sought, even by those who believed drinking tap water posed some health risks. Generational differences emerged in media usage for drinking water advice. Finally, precautionary measures taken at home and abroad often failed to meet national drinking water guidelines. Three major conclusions are drawn: a. broad lack of awareness exists about the most suitable and safe water treatment activities, as well as risks posed; b. health literacy and interest may be improved through greater consumer involvement in watershed management; and c. development of health campaigns that clearly communicate drinking water safety messages in a timely, relevant and easily understandable fashion may help mitigate actual risks and dispel myths. View Full-Text
Keywords: trust; media; communication; decisions; water treatment; chemical; watershed trust; media; communication; decisions; water treatment; chemical; watershed
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Crampton, A.; Ragusa, A.T. Exploring Perceptions and Behaviors about Drinking Water in Australia and New Zealand: Is It Risky to Drink Water, When and Why? Hydrology 2016, 3, 8.

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