H., Green, A., Pellaumail, K., and Weaver, T. (2001). Residents' perceptions of water
quality improvements following remediation work in the Pymme's Brook catchment, north
London, UK. Journal of Environmental Management 62, 239-254.
Residents’ perceptions of water quality change following
remediation work in the upper Pymme’s Brook catchment (north London) were elicited by
questionnaire and compared with monitored changes in Escherichia coli count and
BMWP (The Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP)) score. The wider usefulness of
consumer perception surveys was then discussed. Monthly data collected between 1990 and
1996 shows that both E. coli count and BMWP score improved following flushing of
the foul sewerage system in 1992, but that only E. coli count improved following
the subsequent completion of large-scale remedial engineering works. Local residents were
surveyed regarding their awareness of the scheme, and the causes of pollution, together
with their perceptions as to the effects of the engineering works and of the resulting
water quality improvements. Most respondents selected and ranked indicators in a way that
suggested they had an awareness of the significance of various indicators of pollution
severity. Following completion of the remediation scheme, residents perceived the
watercourse to contain less rubbish and sewage fungus, and to have an improved colour and
smell, which corresponds favourably to the monitored improvements. However,
respondents’ perceptions were found to vary when the study population was sub-divided
using a range of parameters. For instance, frequent observers of the brook were most
likely to correctly identify sewage as the main form of pollution. These divergent
perceptions suggest that there may be considerable difficulties when perception surveys
are used to quantify ‘benefits’ following environmental improvement programmes.
Nevertheless, the survey was clearly beneficial in enhancing residents’ awareness of
their environment and the role of their voice in its management.
The full paper can be downloaded from Science Direct.