Aus$ 3 million grant for reuse public-acceptance research

The Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence (AWRCE) announced on 25 June 2012 a Aus$ 3 million (US$ 3 million) for a research project to investigate and address the barriers to public acceptance of reusing water for augmenting drinking water supplies in the first large-scale collaboration of its kind.

The project will focus on three key areas:

  • Demonstration of water production performance and operational reliability
  • Evaluation of social, economic and governance challenges
  • Design and implementation of a national demonstration education and engagement program.
  • Led by the University of New South Wales, the project will be delivered by a large consortium of organisations across Australia and overseas, including water utilities, universities and private companies. Contributions by these partners will bring the project investment to Aus$ 10 million (US$ 10 million).

    The themes of this research will be explored at the Trust, Emotion and Stigma: Overcoming Barriers to Potable Reuse workshop being held in Sydney on 25 June 2012. Hosted by Water Services Association of Australia and WateReuse Australia, the workshop has attracted prominent speakers from both Australia and abroad.

    The workshop will present findings from two recent studies about the context and terminology of water reuse language. This research aims to better inform the way water reuse is communicated so as to increase public understanding.

    Launching the project, the chair of the AWRCE, Leith Boully, said that all water sources must be considered to secure future water supplies.

    “This project is not about ‘making’ people drink purified water, but is about ensuring that water recycling remains a considered option when planning for our future water needs,” Boully said. “The ultimate goal is to develop tools, methods and materials that water utilities, educators and regulators can use to provide consistent information across Australia, and to increase community understanding and build acceptance of water recycling and reuse as an option for an alternative water source.”

    The centre’s CEO, Dr Mark O’Donohue said that working with industry, government and the community to progress informed public debate on water recycling for augmenting drinking water supplies is an important goal for the centre.

    Dr O’Donohue said that the challenge faced by a number of schemes has been building sufficient community understanding and confidence to support the adoption of water recycling and reuse as a permanent mainstream water source.

    The Australian Government has committed Aus$ 20 million (US$ 20 million) in funding over five years to the AWRCE, through the Water for the Future initiative.