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Water quality perceptions and private well management: The role of perceived risks, worry and control
2020-08-01, Schuitema, Geertje, Hooks, Teresa, McDermott, Frank
Mismanagement of drinking water supplies can pose serious public health risks. There are many concerns about water source management among private well owners, as they are often solely responsible for maintaining their wells, and monitoring and testing of their own water quality. Lack of worry about contamination and a strong sense of control over risks in relation to drinking water quality have been identified as important factors that influence peoples’ perceptions and behaviour. In this paper, we investigated how worry and control moderate the influence of risk perceptions on water quality perceptions and well owners’ maintenance behaviours. We compare a sample of private well owners (N=167) with a sample of members of Group Water Schemes (GWS) (N=160) and people who are supplied via the public mains (N=195), to validate our results. We found that, in comparison to the other groups, well owners believe that water from private wells is superior and they express a high level of control over contamination risks of their drinking water. Moreover, strong feelings of control suppress their perceptions of risk in relation to water quality. However, well owners who feel largely in control also maintain their well more frequently. Our results suggest that communication strategies with well owners should aim to bring the current unrealistic levels of control perception down to more realistic levels, rather than removing all sense of control.