Awareness Is Not Enough: Frequent Use of Water Pollution Information and Changes to Risky Behavior





Citation of Original Publication

Ross, Ashley D., Abbey Hotard, Manoj Kamalanathan, Rayna Nolen, David Hala, Lauren A. Clay, Karl Kaiser, and Antonietta Quigg. 2020. "Awareness Is Not Enough: Frequent Use of Water Pollution Information and Changes to Risky Behavior" Sustainability 12, no. 20: 8695.


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Hazard information plays an important role in how risk perceptions are formed and what actions are taken in response to risk. While past studies have shown that information on water and air pollution is associated with changes to individual behavior, there is a need for examination of water quality information in the context of environmental disturbances. This study fills that gap by examining water pollution in an active industrial region of the United States—the Galveston Bay of Texas. Using original survey data collected in 2019 of 525 adults living in the Galveston Bay region, logistic regression was used to analyze the association of awareness and use of water pollution information on changes to outdoor activities and consumption of drinking water and/or seafood. Controls for chronic and acute exposure to environmental hazards, environmental knowledge and experience, and demographics were included in the model. The findings indicate frequent use of water quality information is significantly associated with action to reduce risk. On average, an individual who checks water pollution monitoring every day is 26% and 33% more likely to change their outdoor activities and consumption behavior, respectively, than someone who is not aware of this information. There is a need for improvement in pollution data collection and the development of a risk communication framework that facilitates the dissemination of this information in relevant, accessible, and credible ways.