Management preferences and attitudes regarding environmental impacts from seawater desalination: Insights from a small coastal community
The use of seawater desalination as a water supply option is increasing worldwide. Compared to other marine sectors, studies on marine users' perceptions and attitudes towards this new sector and its impacts on marine ecosystems are very limited. This study assessed diﬀerences in coastal stakeholder groups' preferences for managing marine impacts of a seawater desalination plant in a small coastal community. The majority of respondents placed high importance on the marine ecosystem, including ecosystem features that are less visible and charismatic, and were highly concerned about potential impacts on marine ecosystems and marine activities from the new desalination facility. Coastal residents further rated multiple management measures to reduce and oﬀ-set marine impacts as highly important, but indicated a lack of trust in institutions involved in regulating and managing environmental impacts. Logistic regression revealed that lack of institutional trust and concerns about marine impacts were signiﬁcant predictors of opposition to the desalination facility and appeared to play a critical role in shaping local attitudes towards desalination. Findings further revealed that local opinions were primarily shaped by how respondents used the nearby marine system, and by gender. Age, education, and race did not seem to shape local opinions. At the same time, there were diﬀerences between consumptive and nonconsumptive marine user groups' opinions indicating the potential for conﬂict regarding the most important management strategies.