The psychology of recycled water: Factors predicting disgust and willingness to use

Julia Wester, Kiara R. Timpano, Demet Çek, Kenneth Broad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Water recycling is increasingly recognized as a critical strategy to maintain sustainable water supplies. Yet public acceptance of water recycling often lags behind. It is unclear the degree to which individuals are aware of the role of disgust in their decisions about recycled water, how important anticipated disgust is to willingness to use when controlling for other factors, and what the most effective method of presenting information about water recycling would be to decrease disgust reactions and increase willingness to use. We used a two-pronged approach, combining a survey with open-ended and psychometric measures with an experimental manipulation, in a U.S.; web-based sample (N = 428). Only 2% of participants self-identified disgust as important to their decisions about recycled water. When measured directly using a Likert scale, however, anticipated disgust was the strongest predictor of willingness to use recycled water when controlling for individual differences that have been shown to impact willingness to use, including a subscale of individual pathogen disgust sensitivity. Finally, participants were exposed to an educational brochure about water reuse framed either affectively or cognitively or were shown a simple, neutral definition. Exposure to either the affectively or cognitively framed brochures lowered anticipated disgust, but did not significantly affect willingness to use recycled water compared to the neutral condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3212-3226
Number of pages15
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • affect
  • cognition
  • disgust
  • framing
  • public acceptance
  • water reuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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