Risk Communication: Water Talks

Developing Risk Communication Strategies To Communicate The Quality And Safety Of Tucson's Water

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In 1942, aircraft facilities in Tucson, Arizona began improperly disposing of trichloroethylene (TCE). The TCE leaked into the groundwater, which led to contamination of the public water system and public distrust of the safety of their tap water. In the Tucson Community, only 25.6% of adults aged 25 and older in Arizona have greater than a high school diploma, while 38% of adults in Tucson have basic or below basic literacy levels. Acknowledging Tucson’s history with water contamination and the contamination events in Flint, Michigan, as well as low literacy levels in the Tucson Community, the Water Talks project aims to create a risk communication model that will allow Tucson Water to more effectively communicate water safety information about emerging contaminants with the public. The goal is to increase trust in public water systems and to increase environmental health literacy in the Tucson community


So far, the Water Talks team has conducted 8 focus groups to gather participants' thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about the safety of their tap water. Two focus groups were completed per age group (High School students,18-29, 30-54, and 55 and older). The results of these focus groups will inform how Tucson Water communicates with the public about emerging contaminants.

Do you have concerns about your water quality?

The Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and Tucson water regularly host Science Cafes. The purpose of these events is to connect community members with researchers and experts to answer questions and address community concerns. If your community group has concerns, questions, or a general interest about any environmental topic and would like researchers and experts to come and address these concerns, please contact Ben Richmond at richmond@pharmacy.arizona.edu.