, Volume 41, Issue 7, pp 709–719 | Cite as

What’s the Problem? River Management, Education, and Public Beliefs

  • Michael Hughes
  • Betty Weiler
  • Jim Curtis


This paper invokes the theory of planned behavior (TPB) as a diagnostic tool to explain an existing public education program’s limited success at improving river water quality in the City of Perth, Western Australia. A reflective, client-driven research approach was used. A facilitated expert workshop defined an environmental problem (excess nutrients leaving gardens and entering waterways) and a desired behavior (residents purchasing environmentally sensitive fertilizer) to address the problem. A TPB-based belief elicitation survey captured respondents’ beliefs regarding the desired behavior. The findings suggest respondents were aware of the links between purchasing environmentally sensitive fertilizer and river water quality. However, this behavior is compromised by the challenges in identifying appropriate products, product quality concerns, and cost. Viewing the content of a public education program through the lens of the TPB reveals insights into how and why the program fell short in achieving one of its key behavioral change goals.


Theory of planned behavior Human behavior in the environment Water quality Urban water catchment River management 



The research project on which this paper is based was funded by the Swan River Trust’s Swan-Canning Research Innovation Program, Perth Western Australia. The authors thank the detailed comments of the reviewers that significantly improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  3. 3.Monash Sustainability InstituteMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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