The Ghost in the Machine: Trust and Technology in the Water Recycling Debate

By Evonne Miller, Laurie Buys, Lorraine Bell, Megan Hargreaves, Les Dawes and Grant Hamilton.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In January 2007, the Premier of Queensland triggered significant community debate with his decision to introduce recycled water to South East Queensland’s
drinking supply. As there is currently no formal water recycling in Australia, this research explored public perceptions via a random postal survey of 410 directly affected residents (21% response rate) living in the Pine
Rivers Shire of Brisbane, Queensland. This paper focuses on participants’ responses to the open-ended question, “what, if any, concerns do you have about using treated recycled water for drinking purposes?”. Using the Public Acceptability of Controversial Technologies (PACT) framework as a conceptual guide, the 177 responses were thematically coded into the three key pillars of PACT: technology (n=128; 72%), constituents (n=23, 13%) and context (n=28, 16%). Thematic analysis revealed the majority of concerns were classified under the technology dimension of PACT, specifically in relation to insufficient knowledge about the technological processes, the long-term effects on health and the possibility of human error. Residents questioned why recycled water was
the first option and felt that other alternatives, such as mandatory grey-water systems and water-saving devises for consumers and industry, should have been explored further. As the first study to explicitly ask Australians directly
affected by water recycling about their concerns, the findings highlight how limited knowledge and trust in the technology was the key barrier to acceptance.

Keywords: Water Recycling, Public Perceptions, Public Acceptability of Controversial Technologies, Australia

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.35-44. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 635.470KB).

Dr. Evonne Miller

Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Social Change Research, Humanities & Human Services, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Evonne Miller is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Design, Queensland University of Technology. Her research expertise is in the area of applied social psychology, specialising in social sustainability, social gerontology, community engagement and behaviour change.

Prof. Laurie Buys

Director, Centre for Social Change Research, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Laurie Buys is an Associate Professor in the School of Design, Queensland University of Technology. Her area of research expertise is social gerontology and social sustainability including sustainable resource use, social impact assessment and community engagement.

Lorraine Bell

Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia

Lorraine Bell is a Research Assistant in the School of Design, Queensland University of Technology. Her research is in sociology with a focus on sustainability, particularly human practices and environmental behaviour change.

Dr. Megan Hargreaves

Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia

Megan Hargreaves is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Life Sciences, Queensland University of Technology. Her area of expertise includes water microbiology, environmental microbiology, bioaerosols, and infection control microbiology.

Dr. Les Dawes

Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia

Les Dawes is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Urban Development, Queensland University of Technology. His area of expertise includes on-site wastewater systems, water quality, soil chemistry and earth wall construction.

Dr. Grant Hamilton

Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia

Grant Hamilton is an Associate Lecturer in the School of Natural Resources, Queensland University of Technology. His area of expertise includes risk analysis, biological invasions, ecological statistics and ecological modelling.

Reviews:

There are currently no reviews of this product.

Write a Review