project

Water-quality crisis

Expert(s):
Stijn Brouwer MA MSc PhD, Nicolien van Aalderen MSc, Prof. Kees van Leeuwen PhD

  • Start date
    01 Jan 2020
  • End date
    31 Oct 2021
  • Principal
    Joint Research Programme
  • collaborating partners

Communication during an acute water-quality crisis requires an approach that differs from regular risk communication. The goal of this project is to develop an applied scientific understanding, with which to define the most effective response strategies in the event of incidents involving chemical substances in drinking water and its sources.

Importance of crisis communication

The playbooks for the effective handling of potential water-quality crises are ready. Given that an acute crisis requires an approach that differs from regular risk communication, crisis communication is also part of the total package. Thus, for example, one needs to provide new information systematically and rapidly, stay in contact with the target group more than usual, and monitor customer reactions.

The goal of the ‘water-quality crisis’ project is to develop an applied scientific understanding, with which to define the most effective response strategies in the event of incidents involving chemical substances in drinking water and its sources.

Evidence-based response strategies

Which evidence-based response strategies are useful in the event of incidents involving chemical substances in drinking water and its sources? This question lies at the heart of the present project. It requires the integration of insights from crisis communication, toxicology and the social sciences.

A literature study will be conducted on effective forms of crisis communication, and sample messages will be tested in a series of focus groups. Furthermore, the actual reporting and its impact will be examined in one or more cases. Besides the recent lead crisis, this might also include zooming in on the pyrazole ‘crisis’, as well as crises occurring in neighbouring disciplines, such as fipronil in eggs and PAHs in rubber granulate in sports fields. Lastly, the best way of monitoring societal sentiment with regard to water quality will be explored.

Anticipated outcomes

A key objective of the project is to develop knowledge with which well-trained professionals – scientific experts working closely with communication specialists – can communicate in an effective and evidence-based manner during a crisis. In a concluding workshop, the insights obtained will be applied and rehearsed interactively.

Furthermore, the lessons learned will be included in a practical guide for chemical water incidents. These will include sample reports and tips to help drinking water professionals implement a rapid and effective response strategy in the event of such a crisis.