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How Trust and Risk Perception Affect Household Water Use  

Raymond Yu Wang and Xiaofeng Liu

Household water use accounts for an important portion of water consumption. Notably, different households may behave differently regarding how water is used in everyday life. Trust and risk perception are two significant psychological factors that influence water use behavior in households. Since trust and risk perception are malleable and subject to construction, they are useful for developing effective demand management strategies and water conservation policies. The concepts of trust and risk perception are multidimensional and interconnected. Risk perception varies across social groups and is often shaped by subjective feelings toward a variety of activities, events, and technologies. Risk perception is also mediated by trust, which involves a positive expectation of an individual, an organization, and/or an institution that derives from complex processes, characteristics, and competence. Likewise, different social groups’ trust in various entities involved in household water use is subject to the significant and far-reaching impact of risk perception. The complexity of the two notions poses challenges to the measurement and exploration of their effects on household water use. In many cases, risk perception and trust can influence people’s acceptance of water sources (e.g., tap water, bottled water, recycled water, and desalinated water) and their conservation behavior (e.g., installing water-saving technologies and reducing water consumption) in household water use. Trust can affect household water use indirectly through its influence on risk perception. Moreover, trust and risk perception in household water use are neither given nor fixed; rather, they are dynamically determined by external, internal, and informational factors. A coherent, stable, transparent, and fair social and institutional structure is conducive to building trust. However, trust and risk perception differ among groups with diverse household and/or individual demographic, economic, social, and cultural characteristics. Direct information from personal experiences and, more importantly, indirect information from one’s social network, as well as from mass media and social media, play an increasingly important role in the formation and evolution of trust and risk perception, bringing a profound impact on household water use in an era of information. Future directions lie in new dynamics of risk perception and trust in the era of information explosion, the coevolution mechanism of risk perception and trust in household water use, the nuanced impacts of different types of risks (e.g., controllable and uncontrollable) on household water use, and the interactive relations of risk perception and trust across geographical contexts.


Impacts of Climate Change on Workers’ Health and Safety  

Barry S. Levy and Cora Roelofs

Climate change has increased the risk to workers’ health and safety. Workers, especially those who work outdoors or in hot indoor environments, are at increased risk of heat stress and other heat-related disorders, occupational injuries, and reduced productivity at work. A variety of approaches have been developed to measure and assess workers’ occupational heat exposure and the risk of heat-related disorders. In addition, increased ambient temperature may increase workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals and the adverse effects of chemicals on their health. Global warming will influence the distribution of weeds, insect pests, and pathogens, and will introduce new pests, all of which could change the types and amounts of pesticides used, thereby affecting the health of agricultural workers and others. Increased ambient temperatures may contribute to chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology among workers. Global warming is increasing ground-level ozone concentrations with adverse effects on outdoor workers and others. Extreme weather events related to climate change pose injury risks to rescue and recovery workers. Reducing the risks of work-related illnesses and injuries from climate change requires a three-pronged approach: (1) mitigating the production of greenhouse gases, the primary cause of climate change; (2) implementing adaptation measures to address the overall consequences of climate change; and (3) implementing improved measures for occupational health and safety.


Water Safety Plans  

Karen Setty and Giuliana Ferrero

Water safety plans (WSPs) represent a holistic risk assessment and management approach covering all steps in the water supply process from the catchment to the consumer. Since 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) has formally recommended WSPs as a public health intervention to consistently ensure the safety of drinking water. These risk management programs apply to all water supplies in all countries, including small community supplies and large urban systems in both developed and developing settings. As of 2017, more than 90 countries had adopted various permutations of WSPs at different scales, ranging from limited-scale voluntary pilot programs to nationwide implementation mandated by legislative requirements. Tools to support WSP implementation include primary and supplemental manuals in multiple languages, training resources, assessment tools, and some country-specific guidelines and case studies. Systems employing the WSP approach seek to incrementally improve water quality and security by reducing risks and increasing resilience over time. To maintain WSP effectiveness, water supply managers periodically update WSPs to integrate knowledge about prior, existing, and potential future risks. Effectively implemented WSPs may translate to positive health and other impacts. Impact evaluation has centered on a logic model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as WHO-refined indicators that compare water system performance to pre-WSP baseline conditions. Potential benefits of WSPs include improved cost efficiency, water quality, water conservation, regulatory compliance, operational performance, and disease reduction. Available research shows outcomes vary depending on site-specific context, and challenges remain in using WSPs to achieve lasting improvements in water safety. Future directions for WSP development include strengthening and sustaining capacity-building to achieve consistent application and quality, refining evaluation indicators to better reveal linked outcomes (including economic impacts), and incorporating social equity and climate change readiness.