A better understanding of the processes that influence public perception can contribute to improvements in water management, consumer services, acceptability of water reuse and risk communication, among other areas. This paper discusses some of the main variables involved in public perception of drinking water quality. Research on this topic suggests that perceptions of water quality result from a complex interaction of diverse factors. In many circumstances, the estimation of water quality is mostly influenced by organoleptic properties, in particular flavour. In addition, a variety of other factors also have an influence on perceptions of quality. These include risk perception, attitudes towards water chemicals, contextual cues provided by the supply system, familiarity with specific water properties, trust in suppliers, past problems attributed to water quality and information provided by the mass media and interpersonal sources. The role and relevance of these factors are discussed in detail.

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