Mitigating Stigma Associated with Recycled Water: Aquifer Recharge and Trophic Levels

Author(s)Ellis, Sean F.
Author(s)Savchenko, Olesya
Author(s)Messer, Kent D.
Date Accessioned2019-12-18T18:07:27Z
Date Available2019-12-18T18:07:27Z
Publication Date2019-12
AbstractStigmatization of water and food products can constrain markets and prevent the implementation of scientifically safe solutions to environmental problems, such as water scarcity. Recycled water can be a cost-effective, dependable, and safe solution to water shortages, however, consumers generally either require a large reduction in price to purchase and eat products made with recycled water or reject such products outright. If emerging agricultural technologies, such as recycled water are to be used to address growing water shortages worldwide, policymakers and industry stakeholders must identify effective strategies for mitigating stigma. Using a field experiment involving 314 adult participants, we test the effectiveness of two stigma-mitigating techniques that have not previously been explored. Our analysis suggests that passing recycled water through a natural barrier, such as an aquifer, removes the stigma consumers would otherwise attach to it. We also find that the trophic level an organism occupies in the food chain influences stigmatizing behavior. The greater the steps in the food chain between an organism and the use of recycled water, the less it is stigmatized. A plant crop used for food possesses the same qualities and contagions as the water with which it is irrigated but a food animal that eats that crop does not, or at least not to the same extent. These results have important implications for efforts to promote large-scale potable and non-potable recycled water projects and the use of recycled water in the agricultural industry.en_US
SponsorThis study received ethics approval from the Institutional Review Board at the University of Delaware (1186504-1). Funding support for this research was provided by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (grant number: 20166800725064), which established CONSERVE: A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food, and Health. The authors acknowledge the support of Natalie Brassill for obtaining potable reclaimed water.en_US
PublisherDepartment of Applied Economics and Statistics, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.en_US
Part of SeriesAPEC Research Reports;RR19-09
KeywordsRecycled wateren_US
KeywordsAquifier rechargeen_US
KeywordsTrophic levelsen_US
TitleMitigating Stigma Associated with Recycled Water: Aquifer Recharge and Trophic Levelsen_US
TypeWorking Paperen_US
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