Q: What does it take to win public acceptance of direct potable reuse of wastewater?
A: “a daily lived experience with the effects of drought or water scarcity”
That’s one of the key findings from a new paper I coauthored with a team led by the University of New Mexico’s Caroline Scruggs, working with Water Resources Program graduate student Claudia Pratesi: Direct potable water reuse in five arid inland communities: an analysis of factors influencing public acceptance.
We were interested in better understanding the connection between the technocratic answers to the reuse question (Science says it’s safe!) and the sometime cultural response (Yuck!). Dr. Scruggs has been working on reuse for years. I jumped in because of my interest in the science-policy interface, and in particular in the governance piece – how do decision making structures influence the kind of decisions that get made in a situation like this. As is the case with stuff like this, Claudia did a lot of the heavy lifting as part of her masters project.
I loved doing this project in part because of the way it embodied the interdisciplinary work we do in the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program – understanding the interface between the technical sciency parts of water management and the cultural and institutional pieces that are so important in getting stuff done.
i think the running of it through as much natural environment as possible between initial cleaning and then putting it back through a treatment plant is the best way as that lets sunlight, bacteria, minerals, etc. work on anything in there and allows for some of strange compounds to be either broken down or captured or absorbed by things along the way.