Socio-technological legitimisation of water-related reuse

Institutional trust and legal and regulatory frameworks can contribute to the socio-technological legitimisation of new technologies for water-related reuse. In this study, twelve legitimisation strategies were identified (see Figure) that can strengthen this institutional trust. It also described the framework of legal requirements for water-related reuse. The successful legitimisation strategies outline the actions that can be taken to increase the acceptance and adoption of water-related reuse. For example, the creation of ambassadors within the water sector by sharing quality results of monitoring procedures and measurement systems. A combination of the mutually interconnected strategies has the most powerful impact.

Societal integration of circular water solutions

In the transition to the circular economy, promising technologies are being developed for the reuse of water and the nutrients and energy it contains. One of the principal challenges is the scaling up of circular water solutions with a view to societal integration and legal requirements. How can we socio-technologically legitimise such solutions on the basis of supporting regulations and institutional trust? Institutional trust refers in this context to two things: 1) the trust of citizens in organisations, and 2) the trust of employees of organisations in the new technologies for water-related reuse.

Literature study, interviews, discussions and workshop with end-users

A literature analysis, prior KWR project outcomes, and European and national regulations formed the basis for identifying the factors that are important for institutional trust, legal requirements and legitimisation strategies. Interviews with experts provided insight into the legal and regulatory framework for water-related reuse. A project team discussion generated reflections on the findings concerning institutional trust, regulatory and legal frameworks, and legitimisation strategy analyses. During a workshop with WiCE partners in the role of end-users, the results and legitimisation strategies were discussed.

Legitimisation strategies for the adoption of water-related reuse

Institutional trust consists of risk perception, acceptance of the modus operandi, underlying attitudes, affective reactions, influence of others, public engagement, communication by the organisation on water reuse, media information, personal experience and observed performances. These ten elements (see Figure) influence the institutional trust of citizens and determine the public acceptance and adoption of water-related reuse. The trust of employees in technologies for water-related reuse influences the societal trust.

Regulatory framework

The elements of the legal and regulatory framework for water-related reuse include: the European regulations for water reuse, the proposal for the revision of the urban wastewater treatment directive, the required end-of-waste status for recovered products, and the Kiwa Water Mark. This regulatory framework has become more supportive for water-related reuse, but there is a lot more need for improvement: not only in terms of legal changes that authorise water reuse, but also regarding encouragement and stimulation, where applicable. Subsidies for water-reuse innovations, and making resource-recovery from water mandatory in national legislation, could promote water-related reuse.

Four types of legitimacy

The legitimisation strategies are applicable to the four types of legitimacy: pragmatic, normative, cognitive and regulative. These four types of legitimacy are linked to the previously defined factors and strategies for the legitimisation of water-related reuse. The strategies are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. The combination of several strategies is powerful.

Legitimisation strategies for four types of legitimacy for the implementation of technologies for water-related reuse: pragmatic, normative, cognitive and regulative.