In Nestlé Waters North America's second annual survey of 6,142 US consumers and experts on water-related topics, released this week, respondents ranked clean water higher than getting enough sleep (25 percent of consumers and 22 percent of experts) and eating healthy foods (23 percent of consumers and 25 percent of experts) as factors important to living a healthy life.
According to ***Perspectives on America's Water***, water conservation efforts are a key priority for Americans, with more than half of consumers (55 percent) and experts (60 percent) saying they think about their water usage on a daily basis. However, an average of 42 percent admit that while they are interested in conserving water, they do not currently take action to do so. One reason seems to be a lack of education about water conservation: Almost one-in-three consumers and experts say they don't know enough ways to conserve water in their daily household activities.
"Consumers have access to many guidelines about how to recycle, but far less guidance on how to care for and conserve water," said Valeria Orozco, Director of Sustainability at Nestlé Waters North America. "As leaders in the bottled water industry, we have an opportunity to further expand our efforts to inspire and educate people — including our own associates — about how to be good water stewards."
Consumers expect businesses to do more to conserve
While a majority of consumers (58 percent) in the study say that reducing their water usage is a key action they take to help protect the environment, both consumers and experts expect businesses to do their part.
More than half (53 percent) of consumers and two-thirds (67 percent) of experts surveyed say that businesses in the US use too much water. Additionally, when asked to grade US businesses on how often they contribute to sustainability efforts, the majority of both consumers and experts grade them a "C" — suggesting there is room for more efforts to be made. To improve their water conservation, the majority of consumers say businesses should prioritize several efforts, including reducing the amount of water they use in their operations (81 percent), using eco-friendly products (81 percent), and following a business standard for water conservation (80 percent). In addition, more than two-thirds of consumers believe working with community groups on water-related initiatives (70 percent) and educating community members on water usage and conservation (67 percent) should also be high priorities for businesses.
"There is a clear call to action for the business community to do more when it comes to protecting our water resources," Orozco said. "That's why Nestlé Waters has committed to certifying 100 percent of our facilities around the world according to the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard. This is our way of ensuring and demonstrating that our water use is not only environmentally sustainable, but also socially equitable and economically beneficial to the local community."
High demand for improving and conserving existing water systems
Nearly seven-in-ten consumers and experts surveyed (67 percent of both) say they consider contamination to be the biggest threat to clean drinking water in the US, followed by aging infrastructure (55 percent of consumers and 60 percent of experts) and depletion of water sources (49 percent of consumers and 54 percent of experts).
American consumers and experts surveyed believe the best approaches to addressing issues related to access to clean water lies in fixing what already exists. This includes improving aging infrastructure (31 percent of both consumers and experts), followed by conservation of our existing water sources (27 percent of consumers and 28 percent of experts), and finally, innovation (22 percent of consumers and 26 percent of experts).
But there is a generational divide in these solutions: Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation surveyed (34 percent) indicate that focusing on infrastructure will have the greatest impact, compared with Gen Z and Millennials (27 percent). On the other hand, younger generations are more likely than older generations to see conservation and innovation as the most impactful solutions (31 percent younger vs. 28 percent older and 26 percent younger vs. 19 percent older, respectively).
When asked about specific solutions to address concerns related to access, infrastructure and contamination, consumers and experts surveyed believe the following are most necessary:
- Early detection systems to identify contamination in water supply (65 percent of consumers and 66 percent of experts)
- New technology to restore contaminated water to safe drinking water (61 percent of consumers and 64 percent of experts)
- Better efficiency measures in water collection and purification methods to save time and money (54 percent of consumers and 60 percent of experts)
- Infrastructure initiatives to use natural systems to filter and store water (54 percent of consumers and 52 percent of experts)
- Infrastructure initiatives to replenish depleted water sources (54 percent of consumers and 55 percent of experts).