Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Health Implications from Wastewater Reuse

Saturday, February 13, 2016
Sarah Patel, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
The study examines cross-cultural perceptions of wastewater reuse from 282 participants from four global sites representing varied levels of socio-economic and political development from the Global North and Global South: Spain, New Zealand, Fiji, and Guatemala. The data comes from the Global Ethnohydrology Survey conducted by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change during the summer of 2013. The Global Ethnohydrology Study is a transdisciplinary multi-year research initiative that examines the range of variation in local ecological knowledge of water issues, also known as “ethnohydrology.” Participants were asked about their willingness, level of disgust, and concern with using treated wastewater for various daily activities. Additionally, they were asked to draw schematic representations of how wastewater should be treated to become drinkable again. Using visual content analysis, the drawings were coded for a variety of treatment levels and specific treatment processes. Conclusions about the perceived health implications from wastewater reuse that can stem from drinking treated wastewater were made. The relationship between humans and wastewater is one that has many direct social and health impacts on communities at large. In reaction to global limitations of freshwater, wastewater serves as a valuable resource to tap into. This research examines the cross-cultural public health concerns about treated wastewater in order to draw conclusions that can aid in strategic implementation of advocacy and public education about wastewater reuse.