News Feature | May 23, 2023

Majority Of U.S. Adults Worry 'A Great Deal' About Drinking Water Pollution

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


An ongoing national poll has found that most adults in the country are significantly worried about contaminated drinking water — results that are notably higher for minority consumers.

“Over the past two decades, Gallup has consistently found that Americans worry more about pollution of drinking water than other environmental concerns,” Gallup reported. “In response to Gallup’s annual environmental polls from 2019 to 2023, 56% of Americans overall said they worry ‘a great deal’ about pollution of drinking water. However, that sentiment was expressed by 76% of Black adults and 70% of Hispanic adults, compared with less than half (48%) of White adults.”

Across all adults polled, 56% indicated that they worry about pollution of drinking water “a great deal” and 24% indicated that they worry about it “a fair amount.”

Gallup attributed the racial disparity to the prevalence of major drinking water contamination emergencies in communities of color, like Flint, Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi.

“Racial and ethnic differences in concern about drinking water likely stem from a mixture of direct experience and media coverage of disasters that have disproportionately affected minority communities,” according to Gallup. “Many low-income Black and Hispanic Americans live in areas with aging infrastructure … Black and Hispanic Americans’ greater likelihood to worry about tainted water suggests a lack of faith in regulators to keep the public safe in light of crises like those in Flint and other cities with large communities of color.”

Indeed, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by drinking water contamination issues, giving them good reason to feel concerned about it. Another recent study found they are more likely to consume one of the most high-profile classes of contaminants than others.

“Residents of communities with bigger Black and Hispanic populations are more likely to be exposed to harmful levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in their water supplies, a new study has found,” per The Hill. “This increased risk of exposure is the result of the disproportionate placement of pollution sources near watersheds that serve these communities.”

As these communities face significant drinking water quality issues and their concerns about these issues grow, water system operators and regulators clearly have a long road ahead in establishing more public trust. To read more about how water systems communicate with the residents they serve, visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.