Risk perceptions toward drinking water quality among private well owners: the illusion of control

20. April 2023, 16:00 Uhr - 17:00 Uhr

Eawag Dübendorf, room FC-C20 & Online

Prof. Geertje Schuitema, University College Dublin, School of Business, Dublin, Ireland

Please contact for access details to join online via zoom.


In rural areas of Ireland where no public or group water schemes exist, groundwater is often the only source of drinking water and is extracted by drilling private wells. Typically, private well owners are responsible for the quality and testing of their own drinking water. Previous studies indicate that well owners tend to underestimate the risks of their well water being contaminated, yet little is known about why this is the case. We conducted qualitative and quantitative studies to investigate how well owners’ beliefs influence their perceptions of drinking water quality, and how this, in turn, informs their risk perceptions and their willingness to regularly test their water. Specifically, we argue that well owners have the illusion of being in control over their water quality, which implies that people often perceive themselves to be more in control of a situation than they actually are. As a result, they tend to underestimate contamination risks, which subsequently impact negatively on water testing behaviours. Implications for policy and communication will be discussed.