Survey Finds Profile of Typical Consumer
of America's Tap and Bottled Water
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 -- On the eve of the release
of important new tap water quality reports to tens of millions
of Americans, a National Environmental Education & Training
Foundation (NEETF)/Roper survey finds mixed feelings about tap
water safety and a strong desire for more information
Though the 55,000 water companies and utilities in the United
States maintain the highest quality public drinking water in
the world, Americans express considerable wariness toward the
water that comes out of their tap each day, a nationwide survey
According to the first-ever Report Card on Safe Drinking Water
Attitudes, Knowledge and Behaviors, 91 percent of Americans report
that they cook with tap water and 75 percent report that they drink
it. By themselves, these numbers indicate significant levels of
But, the survey also found that fully 65 percent of Americans are
now taking steps to either treat the water they drink or are drinking
bottled water in the home. "The amount of use of bottled water in the
home and water filters on the faucet has increased remarkably in the
past few years," says Kevin Coyle, president of The National
Environmental Education & Training Foundation, (NEETF) the
organization that commissioned the survey. "Importantly the survey
also shows some 65 million Americans (24 percent) report they do not
drink tap water at all," Coyle said.
The NEETF/Roper survey was conducted to measure public views on
tap water in the months prior to release of new annual tap water
quality reports -- called Consumer Confidence Reports -- that are now
required by the National Safe Drinking Water Act. Anyone, in America
who purchases water from a public drinking supply will receive the
consumer reports in the mail under the Safe Drinking Water Acts
"right to know" provisions a policy, promoted by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the Congress.
"The Report Card provides a baseline of information to let us
measure the impact the Consumer Confidence Reports will have on
public views once they are sent to nearly 150 million people," said
The survey found several reasons for people's reluctance to rely
soley on tap water and use alternatives such as bottled water, home
filtration and boiling. The main reason (69 percent of them) say
they use these alternatives to raw tap water is taste and smell.
Some 49 percent, however, noted that stories about pollution in the
news influenced their decision.
How serious is this "concern" and how worried is the public? The
answer seems to be 'not very' -- at least not yet. The survey found
that 38 percent of Americans said they are indeed very concerned
about their tap water while another 38 percent say they are
moderately concerned. "Still," said Coyle, "regardless of vocalized
concern we note that nine out of ten (91 percent) of Americans
actually consume tap water either by drinking the water or cooking
No matter what feeling people have toward their tap water the
survey also makes it clear they want more information than they are
now getting. The survey found that people are very interested and
that three quarters of Americans who get information about their tap
water actually read it. And, four of ten say they are not satisfied
with the amount of information they receive.
This shows that the new requirement to provide the Consumer
Confidence Reports has widespread public support and clearly
addresses a felt need. The degree of satisfaction with the
information received can also be measured by future surveys.
Other report findings are:
-- While the media, government and most importantly water
companies are currently the greatest sources of tap water
information, they are considered somewhat less believable than
environmental or other public interest groups and doctors or other
health care providers.
-- Doctors and other health professionals are the most trusted
source of drinking water information.
-- Parents with children at home, sensitive to their family's
health, stand out as being more concerned (80 percent) than
non-parents (74 percent) about the quality of their drinking water.
Parents are also somewhat more inclined to seek advice on drinking
water from health professionals, to filter or boil their water or to
use bottled water in the home.
-- Women as a group share similar characteristics to parents as a
group, and this too may be a reflection of a higher level of concern
-- Bottled water drinkers also stand out as a group with their own
characteristics. They are a younger group and have the highest
expressed concern about safe drinking water of any group in the
survey, at 82 percent.
-- Private well owners and apartment dwellers will not receive
Consumer Confidence Reports but are still concerned about drinking
water information indicating additional efforts are needed to meet
their "right to know" needs.
-- Despite claims to the counter, there is evidence Americans do
not know where their tap water comes from. The survey found, for
example, 26 percent of Americans say they do not know even in general
terms, where their water comes from.