Despite what we often hear through newscasts and social media, a newly released survey on U.S. tap water suggests Americans have a high level of confidence in tap water.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans served by a water utility say their tap water quality is excellent or good. Less than 10% believe their water quality has decreased over the past five years and 78% of adults served by a utility say they're "satisfied" with their tap water.
This isn't to say water utilities don't have work to do. Black and Hispanic respondents and respondents with household incomes of less than $100k report lower satisfaction levels.
“The survey underscores that there is still a lot of work to do to earn trust among Black and Hispanic water consumers and among people with low incomes,” said newly-minted AWWA President Melissa Elliott. “Developing solutions to affordability challenges, swiftly addressing water issues in disadvantaged communities, and improving communications are key in building confidence in tap water.”
The survey shows that communication is a problem. Despite utilities delivering annual consumer confidence reports to customers each year, only 28 percent of respondents served by a water remembered receiving any communication from their water utility.
The survey indicates adults who recall receiving communication from their water utility in the last year report higher satisfaction with their water (85%), are more likely to rate their water quality as “excellent” (36% excellent vs. 24% excellent among those who did not recall communication) and indicate their water is safer (86%) than those who did not recall any communication.
So our water utilities have to find ways to better connect with the people they serve. It’s also worth noting that perhaps the more people know about their water, the better they feel about it.
The poll was conducted by Morning Consult between June 10-13, 2020, among a national sample of 2,200 adults who live in the United States. Of those people, 1,940 people were served by a water utility. The interviews were conducted online, and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of U.S. adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of +/- 2%.