Document Type

Article

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Disciplines

2.1 CIVIL ENGINEERING, Municipal and structural engineering

Publication Details

Journal of Hydrology 558 (2018) 205–213.

Abstract

A significant body of research has focused on the role of domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTSs) as sources of human-specific aquatic contaminants in both developed and developing regions. However, to date few studies have sought to investigate the awareness, attitudes and behaviours of DWWTS owners and the efficacy of associated communication initiatives. The current study provides an examination of a public national engagement campaign undertaken in the Republic of Ireland which seeks to minimise the impact of DWWTSs on human and ecological health via concurrent inspection and information dissemination. Overall, 1634 respondents were surveyed using a ‘‘before and after” study design to capture if and how awareness, attitudes and behaviours evolved over time. Findings suggest that whilst the campaign provided a modest baseline to raise general awareness associated with the basic operational and maintenance requirements of DWWTS, there has been little or no behavioural engagement as a result, suggesting a significant awareness-behaviour gap. Accordingly, efforts to minimise potential human and ecological impacts have been unsuccessful. Moreover, results suggest that public attitudes towards water-related regulation and policy became increasingly negative over the study period due to parallel political and economic issues, further complicating future engagement. Future strategies, both in Ireland and further afield, should focus on health-based demographically-focused message framing to achieve significant knowledge and attitudinal shifts amongst specific population cohorts, and thus bring about significant behavioural change. Study findings and recommendations may be used by myriad stakeholders including local, provincial and national authorities to effectively engage with individuals and communities prior to and during implementation of legislative and policy-based instruments within numerous spheres including climate change adaptation, environmental quality, hydrological risk, and hydro-ecology.

DOI

10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.01.041

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