Water Quality Association Releases National Opinion Survey

Emerging from the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are more positive about their household drinking water quality, less likely to depend on government oversight, and increasingly ready to spend money on home water treatment, according to a new national survey of consumer opinions about drinking water released by the Water Quality Association (WQA).

“The study shows that consumers recognize they have a part in providing their home with safe drinking water, whereas in the past most thought it was solely the responsibility of a third-party such as a public water supplier,” said WQA Executive Director Pauli Undesser. “And with a post-pandemic economic growth expected, people are spending more on home improvements, which include water filtration systems.”

Homeowners Feel Increasing Responsibility for Their Water

Less than a third (31 percent) of the respondents think federal laws on drinking water are not tough enough, a dramatic decrease from the 49 percent holding that opinion in 2019, although half say their municipality is responsible for monitoring and providing safe water, which is down from 63 percent in 2019 and 75 percent in 2017. Half the American households report they rely on home treatment systems (32 percent) or bottled water (18 percent) for quality drinking water in their homes.

Consumers interviewed in January 2021, after 10 months of quarantine, said concerns about contaminants and desire for a healthy lifestyle are the most important factors influencing their decision to purchase a water filtration product. About a quarter of those who do not have water filtration in their homes said they are likely to install products in the near future, with 10 percent saying the possibility was very likely. Almost half of the households (46 percent) have a refrigerator with a filtered drinking water dispenser, and 22 percent have a whole-house filter system.

Quality Concerns Still High, but Decreasing

Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed in 2021 indicate they are concerned or very concerned about the quality of their household water supply, a significant decrease from 51 percent in WQA’s 2019 Consumer Opinion Study. In 2021, more than half (57 percent) think the water supply is safe, while only 15 percent think it unsafe, the survey demonstrated.

Bottled Water Usage Slips

Although still significant, bottled water usage has trended down in the last two years. Seven out of every 10 Americans (70 percent) regularly consume bottled water, which is down from 78 percent in 2019. More than half (52 percent) of the respondents think bottled water is better than tap water (down from 60 percent in 2019), with nearly a third saying it is “purer” than tap water or a more convenient way to drink it.

At the same time, consumers increasingly believe bottled water is not much different from tap water (38 percent) and some feel it might be worse than tap water because of plastic bottling (10 percent). Environmental concerns have encouraged consumers to switch to reusable water containers (18 percent), and the 19 percent who say they bought a filtration system so they wouldn’t feel the need to buy bottled water is twice as high as it was in 2019.

Water Softener Usage Increases

This year’s survey saw a major increase in water softener ownership, with one in four households having a system installed, up from 19 percent in 2019 and only 13 percent in 2017. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those buying a water softener said they did it within one year of buying or leasing a home.

Survey Methodology

The report presents the findings of a national online survey conducted by Applied Research-West, Inc. between January 5 and January 30, 2021. A total of 1,413 adults over the age of 18 and living in private households were interviewed. ARW used a random sampling procedure, and the survey results are accurate within +/- 2.6 percent. The results are representative of all U.S. adults over 18.

A report is available to the public and can be downloaded at wqa.org, while a more in-depth report and analysis is provided to WQA members.

Source: Water Quality Association

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