Two in three Americans believe their drinking water is at risk, according to study

Access to safe drinking water and the nation’s water infrastructure are major concerns for Americans across the country, according to Perspectives on America’s Water,” a new study. A total of 6,699 American adults shared their views on water-related topics in this comprehensive online study conducted on behalf of Nestlé Waters North America by the global market research firm PSB in May 2017.

The study, the first of its kind to gather both the opinions of the U.S. general population and those of experts in the field, found that water is viewed as the most important natural resource in Americans’ daily lives, more so even than clean air (87 percent compared to 81 percent). Yet, 61 percent of American consumers and 66 percent of experts characterized water problems as a crisis or major issue for the United States.

The study found that two in three Americans (66 percent) believe their own community’s clean drinking water is at risk, while 59 percent say a major overhaul of U.S. water infrastructure is needed to avoid that possibility. City-dwellers are especially likely to fear their community’s clean drinking water is at risk (70 percent versus 63 percent in rural areas). There is almost universal agreement (96 percent) that if the United States does not proactively invest in the country’s water infrastructure system now, it will end up costing more in the long run.

“The takeaways from this study are clear to us: Americans care deeply about the state of their drinking water, and they believe investments in infrastructure and innovation are needed now,” said Nelson Switzer, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestlé Waters North America. “It’s our hope that these insights will accelerate the pace of conversation and jump-start concrete actions needed to address our shared water challenges. At Nestlè Waters we believe that access to safe and secure drinking water is a fundamental human right and we know we all have a role, responsibility and obligation to contribute to making this a reality.”

Report Highlights:

  • Two in three Americans believe their community’s clean drinking water is at risk
  • Most Americans believe significant investments in water infrastructure are needed to avoid future water crises
  • Americans expect cross-sector collaboration from governments, businesses and environmental organizations to secure a clean water future

Concerns About Cleanliness and Safety

Many American consumers and experts question whether the tap water in their home (36 percent and 30 percent, respectively) and schools (40 percent for both) is clean and safe. Parents with school-aged children under the age of 18 are more likely to worry; 45 percent of this group question the safety of the tap water in their schools. Government officials polled worry the least, with only 16 percent who say they question the safety of water in their homes.

There is also a widespread concern among Americans that water supply issues will become more pressing within the next decade. Forty-two percent of Americans surveyed believe water will become less available in the next 10 years, and two-thirds (66 percent) believe water crises will have widespread consequences for individuals, businesses and the United States overall.

Most Believe Climate Change Will Increasingly Impact Access to Clean Water

Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of respondents say climate change has had a great deal or somewhat of an impact on access to clean drinking water, by reducing the overall amount (41 percent) and quality (38 percent) of water available. About half (51 percent) say the impact of climate change on access to clean drinking water will increase over the next 10 years, but improving infrastructure (59 percent) or developing innovations for purifying water (58 percent) could help mitigate this impact. Experts are especially likely to say climate change is impacting clean drinking water (76 percent) and are more likely than American consumers overall to say this impact will increase over the next 10 years (58 percent).

Broad Support for Infrastructure Improvements and Funding

Americans surveyed support investment in infrastructure to address both the causes and effects of water-related issues. In terms of specific infrastructure improvements, Americans believe it is necessary to prioritize early detection systems that identify contamination in the water supply (64 percent), more efficient water collection and purification methods (52 percent) and infrastructure to increase water access, quality and capacity (48 percent).

To accomplish this, Americans expect cross-sector collaboration from government at all levels, as well as businesses and environmental organizations. American consumers expect local (71 percent), state (71 percent) and federal governments (65 percent) to play a role in ensuring people have access to clean drinking water, as well as consumers (39 percent) and businesses (35 percent). Experts are especially likely to see opportunity for consumers (45 percent) and businesses to be involved (40 percent).

“As the leading bottled water company in the United States, we have knowledge and experience in water management, water efficiency, source water protection and collaboration and problem solving,” said Switzer. “But we know we can accomplish far more together than we can alone. That is why we are committed to using these insights and skills to engage with our employees, suppliers, communities as well as non-profits, policymakers and other stakeholders who care deeply about the sustainability and the security of America’s water supply to drive innovation and collaboration to ensure a clean, safe and secure water future for generations to come.”


PSB, on behalf of Nestlé Waters North America, conducted an online survey among 6,699 American adults in May 2017. The audiences included General Population Americans (mapped to the U.S. Census on key demographics); an oversample of General Population respondents in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia; Opinion Elites, Health/Environmentally-Conscious Consumers; Government Officials, Academics, NGO Employees, Utility Company Business Decision Makers, and Engineers.

About Nestlé Waters North America

Nestlé Waters North America provides people with an unrivaled portfolio of bottled waters for healthy hydration. Brands such as Nestlé® Pure Life®Poland Spring®Perrier®, and Pellegrino® have driven Nestlé Waters North America to be the third largest non-alcoholic beverage company by volume in the U.S. Based in Stamford, Connecticut with over 8,500 employees nationwide, Nestlé Waters is committed to reducing its environmental footprint across operations. The company is also committed to creating shared value and being a good neighbor in the 140 communities where it operates in the United States.

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