Amanda Wilson, PhD, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, was named to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Direct Potable Reuse Technical Advisory Group. The group is charged with revising the state’s administrative code to allow for the expansion of potable reuse – the process of using treated wastewater for drinking water.
“I’m passionate about direct potable reuse because the implementation of sustainable technologies to grapple with the realities of a changing climate are becoming more and more important, especially in arid environments,” Dr. Wilson said. “With these technologies, risk assessment is crucial along with risk perceptions and acceptability of the communities who will be affected by the implementation of new technology. I’m passionate about finding ways to safely and justly find solutions to sustainability and public health challenges.”
According to the ADEQ website, the direct potable reuse working group will expand on the policy work started by an earlier group that led to a 2017 rule change allowing for the direct potable reuse of wastewater. That rule change was intended to be an interim step as the state developed more robust policies regarding the direct use of reclaimed water.
“Municipalities, water suppliers and utilities need more detail to estimate local costs of direct potable reuse as a water supply option and to proceed with plans, designs and construction,” the website states. “ADEQ intends to provide more regulatory specificity and guidance to facilitate the collection and treatment of wastewater to be used for eventual distribution in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The advisory group consists of up to 25 members with a variety of technical and policy expertise. Dr. Wilson’s research focuses on microbial risk assessment and how everyday behaviors can affect microbial risk.
“For the past year and a half I have been training in the area of risk perception and human behavior research – how do we perceive the risks we face, and do we find these risks acceptable?” Dr. Wilson explained.
“Dr. Wilson is already well known for her unique expertise in quantitative microbial risk assessment modeling, systems engineering and public health,” said Paloma Beamer, PhD, professor of environmental health sciences in the Zuckerman College of Public Health. “Over the last few years, she has developed a new line of research and expertise in risk perception and understanding risk/benefit tradeoffs between competing environmental health interventions. While efforts have been under way regarding the technology for direct potable reuse, one of the biggest hurdles is overcoming the public’s perception. Dr. Wilson will provide unique guidance to the advisory group on how to address the public’s concerns regarding direct potable reuse and aid in understanding the competing multifaceted risks and benefits between using direct potable reuse and the alternatives.”
Dr. Wilson, who joined the college in 2021 in the Department of Community, Environment and Policy, said her recent research has positioned her well to support the direct potable reuse group.
“Receiving a Career Development Award through the University of Arizona Health Sciences has allowed me to develop my growing interest in risk perception, and my mentorship from Dr. Beamer has been a key piece of my training,” Dr. Wilson said. “Working on a drinking water risk perception paper with her ignited the spark of interest in acceptability and risk perceptions associated with water sources and their uses.”