image © Gabriella Rundblad, while original earth image courtesy of NASA National Space Science Data Center

Improving communication on Cryptosporidium and 'Boil Water' notices: Lessons from Pitsford


Drinking Water Inspectorate


King's College London
University of East Anglia


Gabriella Rundblad
Paul Hunter
Olivia Knapton
Jo Van Herwegen


January 2009 - September 2010


In June 2008, some 258,000 consumers in the Northampton and Daventry area were issued with a 'Boil Water' notice when the water supply from Pitsford water treatment works became contaminated with the cryptosporidium parasite after a rabbit entered the works. We are investigating how consumers affected by the Pitsford incident understood the risks posed by their tap water and if/when/how they chose to protect themselves from the parasite and the disease it can cause in animals and humans.

This project was carried out in parallel with the Leverhulme funded project The impact of language and cognition on compliance during a natural disaster. By carrying out two parallel studies of two water incidents, we were able to directly compare and contrast language, understanding of risk and degree of compliance. In particular, this amalgamation of results and conclusions enabled us to determine and explain the efficiency of different information channels, differences/similarities in interpretation of the message depending on information source and consumer background, and how these impacted on consumer behaviour.


We have presented the results from this study at the Health Protection Agency Conference, September 2009, Warwick, UK, and the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Exposition, November 2009, Philadelphia, US.

A copy of the final report is available here.

Rundblad, G., Knapton, O., and Hunter, P. 2014. The causes and circumstances of drinking water incidents impact consumer behaviour: comparison of a routine versus a natural disaster incident. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 11(11): 11915-11930.

Copies of articles are available here.

© 2009-2011