Public awareness and attitudes toward various uses of renovated water

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  • Environment International, Vol. 18, pp. 489-495, 1992 0160-4120/92 $5.00 +.00 Printed in the U.S.A. All fights reserved. Copyright 1992 Pergamon Press Ltd.


    Ismail M. Madany, Ahmed AI-Shiryan, Ibrahim Lori, and Heyam AI-Khalifa Arabian Gulf University, P.O. Box 26671, Bahrain

    E1 9204-146 M (Received 27 April 1992; accepted 27 ]une 1992)

    Public awareness and knowledge in the State of Bahrain regarding various aspects of wastewater were assessed along with the public's attitude toward various specific uses of reclaimed water during different conditions. Data were obtained by a survey of 500 respondents. The results indicated that a large percentage of the individuals surveyed were not aware of the basic and simple aspects concerning wastewater. Most respondents were strongly opposed to using reclaimed water regardless of the conditions and were willing to pay more to avoid using it. However, the opposition decreased as one moves from ingestion to bodily contact and finally non-bodily contact. The reasons for the opposition were mainly health risks, psychological repugnance, and religion. Knowledge and attitudes of the respondents were found mainly to be dependent on the level of education and age. Comparing the present finding with previous works, it can be concluded that people in many countries in the world regardless of their differences, have similar attitudes toward the various uses of reclaimed water.


    During the last decades, the Arabian Gulf States have expanded tremendously due to the implementa- tion of large-scale developmental plans. This was demonstrated in a steady growth in population and rapid expansion of commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities. These continuous activities posed a significant strain and an ever-increasing demand for the basic facilities, such as water supply. Bahrain, like other Gulf countries, has no surface water resources, and groundwater is the only source of fresh water. Until 1975, all water supply was from groundwater, but due to continually increasing demand and exploitation, combined with degradation of its quality (Madany and Akhter 1990; Raveendran and

    Madany 1991), it has become necessary to turn to alternative sources, such as desalination. Other sour- ces, such as treated wastewater, are well recognized worldwide to constitute an increasingly important element of the total available water resources. This resource has been considered in Bahrain, as well as other Gulf States, to be a potential mean of sup- plementing available supplies (Akhter and Madany 1991). In Bahrain and other Gulf States, all research activities have been directed towards the health and environmental implications of reusing treated was- tewater (Abdulraheem 1989; Al-sheryani 1992), but virtually no attention has been given to public opinion, awareness, and attitudes toward the use of reclaimed wastewater. Most of the studies regarding


  • 490 I.M. Madany t al,

    public perceptions and attitudes have been carried out in developed countries. For example, Athana- sious and Hanke (1970) conducted a random telephone survey of 291 households in Baltimore, Maryland, to test attitudes towards reused was- tewater for both potable water supply and recrea- tional uses. Johnson (1971) surveyed 221 persons in five U.S. cities and found that 77% of the inter- viewees would be willing to drink renovated was- tewater. Bruvold and Ward (1972) analyzed public opinion in ten communities in California, and con- cluded that public acceptance of reclaimed was- tewater is associated with the particular use. Gallup (1973) performed a nation-wide survey on attitudes toward water supply and recycled sewage, and found that 54% of the respondents were opposed to drinking recycled waste water. Olson and Pratte (1978) con- ducted a survey in Irvine, California, to determine attitudes toward expanded uses of reclaimed water, and obtained that respondents were in favor of using such water to supplement existing water supply as long as the uses were not in the home. Bruvold (1979) conducted a study dealing with public assessment of wastewater reclamation and reuse options in ten California cities. The study found that about 600 of the respondents were opposed to direct reuse. Another study interviewed 140 Irvine residents to assess their knowledge and evaluation regarding the use of reclaimed wastewater in their community, and similar conclusions were obtained (Bruvold 1981). A study, carried out in five towns in Puerto Rico (Calas and Rios 1981) on consumer attitudes toward reuse of wastewater, obtained that 28% of the respondents were willing to consume reclaimed water. Although results from one study to another varied some, over- all, about 50-60% of the individuals surveyed op- posed direct reuse of reclaimed water, and about 25-40% were in favor of direct reuse. The present paper reports results from a study conducted throughout Bahrain, where reclaimed water is used only for ir- rigation purposes, and has the following aims:

    (1) to assess the awareness and knowledge of individuals regarding wastewater,

    (2) to measure attitudes toward various specific uses of tee!aimed water at different situations,

    (3) to investigate personal and socio-demographic variables associated with attitudes toward the use of reclaimed water, and

    (4) to compare the reaction of Bahraini individuals toward wastewater reuse with individuals in other countries.


    A total of 500 Bahraini individuals from all areas in Bahrain were interviewed in 1991 by a trained graduate student. Samples were taken from each area in Bahrain and the number selected was based on the population of that area. A pilot questionnaire was designed and used on trial basis. Based on the results of this trial, minor wording and formal changes were made to the questionnaire, and the final version was constructed.

    The questionnaire contained three distinct sec- tions. The first which contained eight items, dealt with awareness and knowledge of the respondents about wastewater. The second section consisted of five items and was concerned with the attitudes of the respondents toward the use of treated wastewater at different conditions. The final section of the ques- tionnaire asked for some socio-demographic infor- mation, namely age, sex, education, geographic area, and job title (income). _The statistical test used in the data analysis was the ~2-test for independence.


    Table 1 presents the demographic characteristics of the study participants. The sample was selected in such a way to be similar in characteristics to the population of Bahrain.

    Table 2 summarizes the results for section one of the interview schedule on awareness and knowledge of the individuals regarding wastewater. The data in the table show that only 77.8% of the respondents were aware of the fate of wastewater generated in their houses, and 22.2% gave either wrong answers or said they do not know. A ~2-analysis of the data by sex, age, education, and income, revealed that knowledge of the respondents is dependent only on the level of education (~2 = 34.00, P < 0.0001) and age (~2 = 23.2, P < 0.003). Approximately 73.2% of the individuals surveyed in Bahrain were aware of the importance of treating wastewater, whereas a relatively large percentage (26.8%) answered that there is no need for treatment or said 'do not know' (Table 2). The awareness for the need for treat- ment was significantly related to the education level (~2 = 57.2, P < 0.0001) and age (~2 = 45.6, P < 0.0001). Also, only 65.4% of the respondents knew that there is a treatment facility in Bahrain, and this correlates well with the previous question about the need to treat wastewater. The statistical analysis in- dicated that males are more aware than females of the existance of a treatment plant (~2 = 34.4, P < 0.0001), and this awareness is also dependent on

  • Public opinion on renovated wastewater 491

    Table I. Characteristics of study subjects.

    Character ist ics Study Subjects(N=500)

    N %




    244 48,8

    256 51.2

    Age, years






    198 39.6

    122 24.4

    36 7.2

    40 8.0

    104 20.8

    Educat ion

    < 6years schooling 163 32.6

    l l+,non-univers i ty 230 46.0

    Univers i ty 107 21.4





    i09 21.8

    378 75.6

    13 2.6

    age and level of educat ion (X 2 = 39.3, P < 0.0001). Of those who knew about the treatment plant, only 38% gave a correct answer on its locality. Here also, males were more knowledgeable (~(2 = 34.4, P < 0.0001), and the level of education (X2 = 37.4, P < 0.0001), was related to the knowledge of the respon- dents on the locality of the treatment plant.

    Knowledge of the wastewater treatment method was poor, as expected, and was dependent on age (Z2 = 20.2, P < 0.009), and educat ion (X2 = 20.8, P < 0.0003). When the respondents were asked about the possibility of utilizing wastewater, 81.2% responded correctly, and the x2-analysis showed that the correct answer depends on education level (X2 =

    44.0, P < 0.0001), age (X 2 = 30.0, P < 0.0001), and income (X2 = 12.3, P < 0.002). However, only 60.4% were aware of the wastewater reuse program in Bah-

    rain, and 65.4% were aware of reuse in other countries. The statistical analysis showed that aware- ness of water reuse is dependent on various levels of education, and on age, sex, and income. The final item in section one is concerned with the awareness regarding the importance of wastewater treatment in mit