The protection of catchment areas for drinking water quality has become an increasingly disputed issue in Australia and internationally. This is particularly the case in regard to the growing demand for nature based and rural recreation. Currently the policy for the protection of drinking water in Western Australia is to enforce a 2 km exclusion zone with a much larger surrounding area with limited and prescribed access to recreators. The debate between recreators and water management agencies has been lively, culminating in a recent state government enquiry. This paper describes the second phase of a three phase study to develop a methodology for defensible policy formulation which accounts for the points of view of all stakeholders. We examine general community, active recreators and professionals' views on the current policy of catchment protection and five proposed alternatives using a social judgement theory approach. Key attitudinal determinants of the preferences for policies were identified. Overall the recreators did not support the current policy despite strong support from both the general community and the professional group. Nevertheless, it was evident that there was some support by the community for policies that would enable a slight relaxation of current recreational exclusion. It was also evident that there was a significant proportion of the general community who were dissatisfied with current recreational opportunities and that, in future, it may be less easy to police exclusion zones even if current policy is maintained. The potential for future integration of recreational and water source protection is discussed as well as the benefits of community research in understanding policy preferences in this regard.
Keywords: Catchment management; Drinking water; Policy preferences; Recreation; Social judgement.
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