Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-16-2017


Drought, growing populations, and potential conflict over water in the American Southwest have water authorities examining highly treated wastewater as an option to augment municipal supplies. Direct potable reuse (DPR) holds promise for improving sustainability and reliability of potable water supplies by generating high-quality drinking water from wastewater. Despite research demonstrating that DPR can be safe, one of the biggest hindrances to DPR is negative public perception. Attempts to implement some DPR project have failed, while others have proceeded quickly. Using insights from the literature and interviews with water managers, this study aims to: (1) examine existing community conditions related to water scarcity; (2) the mode of project introduction, characteristics of DPR education and outreach programs; (3) public trust in the agencies introducing and/or promoting the DPR project, (4) media attention given to the project; and (5) the system of governance formulating and executing the DPR project. While some scholars have focused on individual disgust at drinking purified wastewater as the explanation for opposition and in some cases rejection of DPR projects, the results from this study demonstrate that explanations for acceptance or rejection of DPR are more complicated. Findings suggests that attitudes toward water reuse are community specific and responsive to local context, which includes geography, geology, climate, perception of existing water quality, perception of water scarcity, public education and knowledge related to water, trust in individuals or entities introducing the project, media coverage, and governance.



Document Type


Degree Name

Community and Regional Planning

Second Degree

Water Resources

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Caroline Scruggs

Second Committee Member

John R. Fleck

Third Committee Member

Robert Berrens