Most US residents trust local water utility, AWWA poll finds

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In terms of water quality, the new AWWA poll showed that nearly three-in-four U.S. adults view the water from their faucet as safe. Photo credit: new africa, stock.adobe.com

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) says most people currently trust both their tap water and their water utility, according to a new poll of some 2,000 U.S. water customers.

The June 2022 poll, Public Perceptions of Tap Water, found that 77% of water customers “hold a lot or some trust” in their water utility, while 78% are generally satisfied with their water utility.

“It’s good to see the vast majority of people have confidence in both their tap water and their water utility,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance, in a statement on the study. “At the same time, we have work to do to gain and maintain trust in tap water, especially in communities where historical inequities have existed. With affordability challenges rising, focusing on disadvantaged communities is even more important,” he added.

The AWWA said the poll revealed that variables such as age, education, income, gender, and race all have “significant explanatory power” regarding the safety of water at the faucet. For instance, polled Black adults rated their water as “unsafe” 7% more now compared to June 2021. Just two months after the poll, the predominantly Black U.S. City of Jackson, Mississippi, experienced a complex and lengthy drinking water crisis.

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More than half of the U.S. adults polled do not remember receiving any recent communication from their water utility. However, the amount of communication the surveyed adults remember receiving from their water utility has remained constant since June 2021. About 36% of adults recall receiving communication from their water utility in the past year on recommendations about how to conserve water, while 25% recall receiving communication on an increase in the cost of water.

AWWA and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) have developed a suite of freely-available public outreach materials.

In terms of water quality, the poll showed that nearly three-in-four U.S. adults view the water from their faucet as safe. Additionally, seven-in-ten adults rate the quality of water from their faucet as excellent or good. Water quality continues to be directly correlated to whether adults strongly agree that their tap water does not have an odour, is reliable, and is safe to drink.

Just more than half of the polled water customers said they were aware that utilities frequently test tap water.

Based on previous polls, water customer ratings of the quality of water at their faucet has remained at a similar level since June 2021 and decreased by 7% since June 2020.

Lastly, the study shows that one-third of adults report struggling to pay their water bill on time, an 8% increase from June 2021. The consumer price index rose 9.1% from June 2021 to June 2022. As much as 74% of customers polled strongly or somewhat support continuing Congressional assistance to help with paying water bills for those who may not be able to afford it.

In Canada, residential water use accounts for half of the drinking water produced annually, according to Statistics Canada. Several studies over the last 20 years in Canada show that although Canadians rate their water quality highly, a considerable percentage also have concerns with its safety. In particular, unreliable drinking water may have contributed to the perception of low-quality water in remote communities.

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