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Reclaiming Suburbia: Differences in Local Identity and Public Perceptions of Potable Water Reuse
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Urban water managers are increasingly interested in incorporating reclaimed water into drinking supplies, particularly in rapidly growing arid and semi-arid urban areas, such as the western United States. Northern Nevada is one location that is considering augmenting drinking water supplies with reclaimed water, a practice that is known as planned potable water reuse. Potable water reuse can expand water supply and reduce wastewater disposal. However, past studies have shown that the introduction of potable reclaimed water can be controversial and requires an understanding of public perceptions of the resource prior to implementation. This study explores the factors that influence whether or not respondents in northern Nevada express willingness to drink reclaimed water. We pay specific attention to the degree to which self-identification as an urban, suburban, or rural resident influences how people consider using treated wastewater for both potable and non-potable purposes. To address this, we conducted a survey to assess community perceptions of reclaimed water use and applications in northern Nevada in the spring of 2018. We find that years spent living in the home and a respondent being female are negative and significant predictors of being willing to drink reclaimed water, while having heard of reclaimed water before and self-identification as a suburban resident are positive and significant predictors. As the region becomes more developed, particularly in its growing suburbs, it is essential to understand the nature of the interests and concerns regarding water resources and the expanded use of reclaimed water.