This paper joins two recent trends in public policy – policy bubbles and the emotional quality of policies. It proposes to locate these within the meta-framework of the policy sciences conceived by Lasswell (1971) with the following hypotheses. First, negative policy bubbles affect the policy process through a negative “goal definition” of the problem, which makes it unattractive to stakeholders. Second, emotions affect the contextual orientation of policy analysts, the Lasswellian “act of creative orientation.” This paper provides an empirical test of these hypotheses with two cases of recycled drinking water. Provision of recycled drinking water is an underinvested policy which has been implemented on a large scale in fewer than five instances. Although the narratives in the first successful case in Namibia are relatively low valence and center on sustainability and governance, the second case in the United States shows emotions that were highly salient, with anger, social justice, and disgust.