Perceptions of water systems

Public understanding of the water system is vital in confronting contemporary water challenges, as public support is necessary for implementing measures to address shortages and repair infrastructure. In this study, university student participants (N = 457) were asked to draw diagrams illustrating how water reaches the tap in an average home in the U.S. and is then returned to the natural environment. We also conducted an expert elicitation (N = 15) to create a simplified, accurate diagram by which to code each student drawing. Results showed major gaps in understanding, where 29% of the student participants did not draw a water treatment plant, 64% did not draw a wastewater treatment plant, and 1 in 5 participants depicted untreated wastewater returning to the natural environment. For the majority of non-environmental students, the water system stops at the home. These gaps reveal a critical area for public environmental education efforts.

Publication Date:
May 01 2017
Date Submitted:
Oct 26 2018
Judgment and Decision Making

 Record created 2018-10-26, last modified 2020-10-27

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