Report No FR0439
PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF AESTHETIC POLLUTION
The National Rivers Authority and the Water Utilities have a
better understanding of how the presence of aesthetic pollution in the water environment
affects the public perception of water quality.
To ascertain the publics attitude towards aesthetic pollution,
and in particular, the effect that the presence of gross solids derived from urban
drainage systems has on their perception of water quality.
The National Rivers Authority is developing a series of Statutory
Water Quality Objectives and a new General Water Quality classification scheme which, for
the first time, is to include a consideration of the impact of aesthetic pollution. It is
important that the NRA is aware of how the public perceive aesthetic pollution, to assist
in the development of the new standards.
Previous work on public perception studies of water quality is
discussed, and types of aesthetic pollution are introduced and the aims of the work
The background to the choice of methods used in the study is explained and the choice
of sites, questionnaire design, pilot survey and analytical methods are described before
the results of the on-site and laboratory surveys are presented.
Finally, the conclusions from the study are listed, and recommendations for further
The questionnaires and photographs used in the surveys are included in the appendices.
- Sewage derived contaminants have a greater impact on the public's
enjoyment of a visit to a river or beach than any other aesthetic pollution parameter.
- The public's perception of water quality is derived more from the visual
state of the water itself than from other indicators; and the presence of solid waste
contaminants in the water seems to have a greater impact on the public ' s perception of
water and environmental quality than their presence on the banks of a river or on a beach.
- Sewage derived products are not regularly seen, or at least, not
recognised by the public. When such items were identified they were found to have a
negative affect on perceived water and environmental quality.
- Single items of sewage derived waste, when recognised as such, appear to
have a greater impact on perceived water quality than a conglomeration of different items,
and sanitary towels had a more strongly negative impact on perceived water quality than
- A large section of the public do not associate the presence of sewage
derived waste products in the water or on the banks of a river or beach as evidence of
pollution arising from sewerage discharges.
- The public considered the construction of more, or the improvement of
existing, sewage treatment works to be the most agreeable and effective solution to the
problem of sewage contamination. Legislation and raising consumer awareness of how to
dispose of products were ranked second and third. The use of long sea outfalls were not
considered to be an effective solution.
- There is a need to repeat this study at additional beach and river
locations to confirm the representativeness of the results.
- It is recommended that future studies include small qualitative study
groups to discuss certain river and coastal features and different items of solid waste
- There is a need for the Water Utilities, manufacturers of sanitary
products and the National Rivers Authority to increase the public's awareness of the
desirability of disposing of sanitary products by routes other than the sewerage system.
This would be best achieved through a joint awareness campaign.
Copies of the report are available from FWR, price £35.00, less 20% to FWR Members.