Understanding the Public’s Questions and Concerns about Potable Water Reuse: An Analysis of Survey Write-in Responses from Residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Published Date:
October 2022

Caroline E. Scruggs, Catherine M. Heyne


Urban centers around the world are grappling with the challenges associated with population increases, drought, and projected water shortages. Potable water reuse (PWR, i.e., purification of domestic wastewater for reuse as drinking water) is emerging as an option for supplementing existing water supplies. Research on public perceptions of PWR has been conducted, mostly using surveys with multiple choice questions that constrain survey respondents to describing their concerns by choosing from a few response options. The approach has not achieved the objective of gathering meaningful data about the public’s actual questions and concerns related to PWR to allow design of effective programming for public education, outreach, and communication.

This research fills the knowledge gap by providing the first detailed analysis of public questions and concerns about water resources and PWR based on hundreds of write-in responses to a large ( n=4,000) survey conducted in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Findings demonstrate that including opportunities for survey respondents to voice their questions and concerns in their own words adds richness and nuance that cannot be obtained from multiple-choice questions alone. Especially in the case of controversial resource considerations, planners would benefit from a full and nuanced understanding of a problem before engaging with the community.

Technical Report 402

water recycling, community survey, public perceptions, education, trust, resource planning