New survey polls U.S. confidence in tap water

glass of water

Four in five Americans served by a water utility (77 percent) say the quality of their tap water is excellent or good, although Black and Hispanic respondents report a lower level of satisfaction, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

The June 2020 poll, titled “Public Perceptions of Tap Water,” included 1,940 Americans served by water utilities.

“It’s encouraging to see that overall confidence in tap water is high in the United States,” said AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance. “We hope this survey helps water professionals better understand consumer perceptions – both positive and negative – so they can continue to address concerns and strengthen public trust.”

Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans believe their water quality has decreased over the past five years, according to the poll, and 78 percent served by water utilities say they are “satisfied” with their tap water.

However, the poll showed lower satisfaction among Black and Hispanic respondents and among respondents with household incomes less than $100k. Higher-income earners ($100k+) were more likely to report high levels of safety with their water. White respondents were more likely than Black and Hispanic respondents to report their water is “very safe.”

“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 and middle incomes,” said AWWA President Melissa Elliott. “Developing solutions to affordability challenges, swiftly addressing water quality issues in disadvantaged communities, and improving communications are key in building confidence in tap water.”

The survey showed that consumers who recall receiving communication from their water utility in the last year are more satisfied with their water (85 percent), are more likely to rate their water quality as “excellent” (34 percent “excellent” vs. 23 percent “excellent” among those who did not recall communication) and perceive their water as safer (86 percent safe) than those who did not recall any communication (77 percent safe).

Despite the fact that utilities are required to provide annual reports on water quality to consumers each year by mail or online, only 28 percent of respondents served by a water utility recalled receiving any communication from their water utility.

“It seems clear that consistent communication from utilities is key in strengthening public trust in tap water,” Elliott said. “We need to do a better job of reaching water consumers in ways that are meaningful to them, listening to their concerns, and communicating through the channels they prefer.”

A poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Water Works Association between June 10-13, 2020 among a national sample of 2,200 U.S. adults. 1,940 of these surveyed adults are 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 percent.

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 51,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.

Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company delivering insights on what people think in real time. By surveying tens of thousands across the globe every day, Morning Consult is unmatched in scale and speed: It determines the true measure of what people think and how their decisions impact business, politics and the economy. Industry leaders rely on Morning Consult’s proprietary technology and analysis for real-time intelligence to transform information into a competitive advantage.

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