ImprovingCommunication with the Public on Water Industry Policy Issues

ReportNo WSAA 6

November 1989




Thisproject had the main aim of establishing future directions for education andpublic involvement programs for domestic water consumers in major Australiancities. It was conducted in Sydney, Perth and Canberra as these cities havecontrasting water supply histories and problems. It was believed that thiswould allow sufficient generality of findings for application to otherAustralian cities.


Thefirst stage of the study involved the measurement of public attitudes to andperceptions of a wide range of water management and planning topics as well aspublic involvement and communication issues through a questionnaire survey. Thesecond stage attempted to relate actual participation behaviour to theseattitudes and perceptions through the conduct of problem-solving workshops.


Althoughthe attitudes and perceptions measured in the first stage were indicative ofthe individual situation in each city, the second stage showed a remarkablesimilarity between cities in actual attendances of the workshops andpreferences for public involvement procedures, information, education andcommunication.


Thestudy found that there are four distinct ways that people think about waterwhich will be useful in the future planning of public education and persuasioncampaigns.


Thestudy also found that, given the facts of a water management situation, thepublic come to solutions not dissimilar to that of planners and are prepared totake some personal responsibility in the solution. However, an integral part ofthis public responsibility is the public assurance of accountability of thewater agency and the genuine will on the part of the agency in seeking public opinion.For this reason it has been recommended that a Domestic Consumer Advisory Groupor Regional Advisory Groups be established and that public involvement indecision making be regarded as a regular and integral part of theCommunication, Education and Information program.


As aresult of public preferences, the study also recommends a greater emphasis onpersonal, informed contact by the water agencies with the public and lessemphasis on mass media presentations.


Aneffective workshop procedure has been identified, for the conduct of theworkshops. Unlike previous findings in public involvement, this study achieveda representative sample of each city at the workshops rather than a highersocio-economic status group of attendees.


Specificsuggestions for the implementation of the recommendations are made.


Thereport attempts to present the results of statistical analyses as simply aspossible. The authors may be contacted for further details, should the readerrequire. Summaries have also been produced at various points throughout thereport as a further aid to the reader.



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