This chapter argues that decisions about water are too important to be left solely in the hands of the experts. Building on the recent research experience of the author, it is clear that the general public does not automatically trust government and/or industry to look after its health and environmental concerns over matters relating to water. The basis of this lack of trust is not only a degree of scepticism due to past experience but also has to do with the inherent duality of water; water being capable of bringing a vital resource to a community as well as of taking away its waste products. Underlying this surface concern about the state of our water are the more psychological or imagined aspects of water: its ability to evoke dreams and reveries that are vital for sustainability of culture. Involving the public in decision making is critical, not only because it will lead to better decisions, community building and ease of implementation, but just as importantly because, from a psychological perspective, it will foster the will to act.
The character of social ecology has often been spoken of as being more adjectival than substantive. While as an emerging intellectual discipline it draws insights and strategies from the social and biological sciences, it is also an attitude and a desire. As an attitude, a social ecologist might seek to hold together, in dynamic tension, the ways to knowing, and doing, of science and the ways of knowing of the imagination. As a desire, these two cognitive orientations, the empirical world of sense perceptions and the imaginative world of image perceptions, come together as an intervention, an action project which represents a conscious design. A social ecology then can be understood as a perspective, a process, that can be designed into a building, a landscape, a work group, or (as is the focus of this chapter), into the production and use of reclaimed water.
Water, no less than the more general notions of 'landscape' and 'nature', is a social construction. Over time, society and, importantly, different subgroups of society