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Upside To U.S. News Coverage Of Water Supply Threats

More Americans know where their water comes from

LAS VEGAS – Recent water-related headlines about droughts, chemical spills, and burst pipelines may have a surprisingly positive impact on water conservation. A national poll by EnviroMedia shows the percentage of Americans who say they “definitely know” the natural source of their drinking water has spiked.

“That increase is good news to us, because our research for 10 years has shown a strong connection between knowledge of water and energy sources and willingness to conserve them,” says EnviroMedia CEO and behavior change expert Valerie Davis. “It’s just too bad that it is negative water headlines that seem to be driving up knowledge.”

The new EnviroMedia poll shows that 44 percent of American homeowners say they know where their water comes from — up from 32 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, homeowners’ knowledge about the fuel sources for their electricity has remained stagnant at 35 percent during that same period.

“Just look at the water-related media reports this year alone,” says Davis. “From the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia in January to the Sunset Strip water main break just two weeks ago, how can Americans not be talking more about water beyond the faucet?”

Drinking Water Threats
Toledo’s headline-grabbing algae crisis in July and the Mississippi River “dead zone” seem to have had a far-reaching impact on attitudes. The new national survey shows that about 8 out of 10 Americans agree that runoff from agriculture and leaky sewage systems can lead to poisonous algae blooms that threaten the safety of their household drinking water.

The same study found that half of Americans don’t understand just how much our water infrastructure is aging, and just as many think it’s unfair they might have to help pay for it. According to the Value of Water Coalition, the average age of our water pipelines is 47 years, and pipelines in major cities like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York can be 75 and older. Yet 48 percent of Americans believe the average pipeline to be less than 40 years old.

When asked how fair it is that by 2020 utility customers might have to pay about $82 more per year for infrastructure upgrades, 46 percent of homeowners said that was unfair.

“Water is America’s most essential but most taken-for-granted natural resource,” says Davis. “Electricity and gas are so costly in comparison, yet we have this stubbornness about pouring water on our lawns and get cranky at the idea of paying more for it. And the visible reminders of power lines everywhere keep electricity top of mind while our water infrastructure lies aging underground. Out of sight, out of mind.”

EnviroMedia’s poll was conducted online among 811 homeowners on QuickTake September 13-24. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

About EnviroMedia
Headquartered in Austin, EnviroMedia provides sustainability communications and consulting services to the world’s most innovative agents of change. Areas of focus include air, water, energy, waste, and alternative transportation.

Contact Info

Got an innovative sustainability idea that can change the world, but not sure how to make it stick? You’ve come to the right place. Email Valerie Davis at [email protected] to set up a time to talk.

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