Cross-cultural knowledge and acceptance of wastewater reclamation and reuse processes across select sites

Rhian Stotts, Jacelyn Rice, Amber Wutich, Alexandra Brewis, Dave White, Jonathan Maupin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Water is in a constant state of circulation and reuse. Most reuse is unplanned, suggesting significant potential for planned reuse. Yet, attempts to implement planned potable reuse of wastewater have often been countered by public resistance. Based mostly on analyses from high-income countries, scholars have argued that educating people on the technical processes of wastewater reuse will lead to increased public acceptance. Our research explores the relationship between knowledge of wastewater treatment technology and acceptance of direct potable wastewater reuse and examines the perspectives of residents of lower and middle countries in context with, and in comparison to, residents of wealthier countries. Using data collected through semistructured interviews with residents in community sites in Guatemala, Fiji, New Zealand, and Spain, our analysis highlights how little knowledge of wastewater treatment technology exists and that such knowledge has little bearing on wastewater reuse acceptability. Rather, cultural factors like trust are likely key. We propose that efforts to increase acceptance of potable wastewater reuse needs to be focused on explicitly cultural factors like trust more so than public education in the strict sense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-324
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • Knowledge
  • Public acceptance
  • Wastewater
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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