Investigating public perceptions and knowledge translation priorities to improve water safety for residents with private water supplies: a cross-sectional study in Newfoundland and Labrador

BMC Public Health. 2013 Dec 23;13:1225. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-1225.


Background: The first objective of this study was to investigate the public perceptions of private water and alternative sources with respect to safety, quality, testing and treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Canada. The second objective was to provide public health practitioners with recommendations for improving knowledge translation (KT) efforts in NL, based on assessments of respondents' perceived information needs and preferred KT methods.

Methods: A cross-sectional telephone survey of 618 households with private water supplies was conducted in March-April, 2007. Questions pertained to respondents' perceptions of their tap water, water concerns, alternative water use, well characteristics, and water testing behaviours.

Results: Approximately 94% of households were supplied by private wells (50% drilled and 50% dug wells), while 6% obtained water from roadside ponds, rivers or springs (RPRS). While 85% rated their water quality highly, 55% nevertheless had concerns about its overall safety. Approximately 11% of respondents never tested their water, and of the 89% that had, 80% tested at frequencies below provincial recommendations for bacterial testing. More than one-third of respondents reported treating their water in the home, and 78% employed active carbon filtration methods. Respondents wanted more information on testing options and advice on effective treatment methods. Targeted advertising through television, flyers/brochures and/or radio is recommended as a first step to increase awareness. More active KT methods involving key stakeholders may be most effective in improving testing and treatment behaviour.

Conclusions: The results presented here can assist public health practitioners in tailoring current KT initiatives to influence well owner stewardship behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Private Sector*
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Supply / standards*
  • Water Supply / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult