Americans 'Deeply Concerned' About Water Infrastructure

A new poll commissioned by the Value of Water Coalition asked 1,000 U.S. adults about their level of concern with the state of the nation's water infrastructure - and whether they'd be willing to pay more to fix it.

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A new poll commissioned by the Value of Water Coalition asked 1,000 U.S. adults about their level of concern with the state of the nation’s water infrastructure - and whether they’d be willing to pay more to fix it.

In general, the results indicated that the respondents were “deeply concerned” about the state of our water systems. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed - 95 percent - felt it was important or very important to improve and modernize water infrastructure.

Bear in mind, the survey was conducted Jan. 27-31, 2016, in the midst of the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich. With that as a backdrop, 95 percent of respondents said it was important or very important that public officials “make the necessary investments in water systems so no other community experiences what has happened in Flint.”

But does that mean they themselves would be willing to pay higher rates? To me, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the survey. Initially, it was a pretty even split: 47 percent said they would pay more, 47 percent said they feel they pay enough already.

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Respondents were asked: What percent more would you be willing to pay to improve and modernize the water systems in your community?

But, then the interviewers provided some additional information to educate the respondents about water infrastructure issues and something interesting happened: willingness to pay more for safe and reliable water service jumped to 60 percent. Of those willing to pay more, 45 percent said they would be comfortable with a 5 percent increase in their water bill, and 24 percent would agree to a 10 percent increase.

Compare these results with those from a similar Value of Water Coalition survey conducted in April 2015 that found 82 percent of Americans said it was important or very important to “invest in strategies and programs that develop sustainable water supplies.” And 56 percent agreed that “water bills need to increase to repair and modernize water and wastewater infrastructure.” While there is still much to be done in terms of educating the public about water infrastructure issues, it seems as though we’re heading in right direction.

“This is a critical time and important opportunity to have a conversation across the country about the importance of investing in our water systems,” said Radhika Fox, director of the Value of Water Coalition and CEO of the US Water Alliance. She noted that being able to drink water straight from the tap and knowing that wastewater is treated safely and responsibly are top concerns for Americans. “As a nation, we must prioritize investment in our water systems to maintain high-quality water service today and for future generations.”

Angela Godwin

Chief Editor, WaterWorld

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