A healthy scepticism towards water in South Australia

Eileen Willis, Meryl Pearce, Loreen Mamerow, Bradley Jorgensen, Martin Martin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Purpose: This paper examines citizen trust at both a rational and affect level in the water utility provider, SA Water. Design/methodology/approach: The study draws on data from a CATI of approximately 500 residents in two urban and rural locations. Findings: Citizens have a healthy scepticism toward the utility provider suggesting they make a distinction between the capacity of SA Water to provide safe drinking water, and the political willingness of the government to plan for long-term sustainability. Research limitations/implications: The conduct of research on topics of a political nature may be viewed by respondents as a political act although it is possible to see the views expressed as representative. Research conducted during times of heightened awareness, such as during a drought when water restrictions are in place, may generate strong feelings of anger in government, but may not be a true measure of citizen trust in the provider. Practical implications: The paper shows that trust in utility providers may vary according to social situations. Social implications: Encouraging citizen trust in the water supply requires education in the science used to ensure safety, but also transparent regulation for ensuring risk management. Originality/value: The study points to possible shifts in citizen trust in water providers depending on climatic conditions, the role of the utility provider, and the reputation of the government as a regulator and planner.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)380-395
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
    Issue number5/6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


    • Australia
    • Citizens
    • Consumer behaviour
    • Drought
    • Regulation
    • SA Water
    • Trust
    • Utility provider
    • Water supply


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