Water Utilities, Student Groups, Professionals, and Policy Experts Propose More Consumer-Friendly Water Quality Reports
The Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) today announced winners of its Water Data Prize, demonstrating how water quality reports can be reimagined to help consumers understand whether their drinking water is safe. More than 30 organizations and individuals in the water sector submitted entries aimed at improving the federally-mandated Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), with Raftelis, a Charlotte, NC-based consultancy, awarded the top prize.
Each year, America’s 50,000 water utilities must provide their customers with a CCR, reporting on drinking water quality, any contaminants such as lead or arsenic found in the water, as well as any water violations. Yet too often the reports are so complex and technical that customers struggle to decipher them, particularly those who speak another language. Reports also fail to get information into the hands of all customers, particularly renters or households without access to the internet. EPIC created the Water Data Prize competition to inspire new approaches to sharing information about water quality that help all consumers make informed decisions about whether to drink their tap water, filter it, or purchase bottled water.
“Every person in the U.S. deserves to know what's in their water when they turn on their kitchen taps, said Tim Male, Executive Director of EPIC. “By reimagining water quality reports, we can dramatically improve a consumer's understanding of what's in their drinking water. This knowledge not only empowers consumers to make more informed decisions when their water is unsafe to drink, but also helps them build confidence and trust in their water supplies over the long term.”
Research has shown that people across the U.S. perceive drinking water as unsafe, particularly people of color and immigrants. Mistrust of tap water leads to decreased water consumption and is linked to increased use of expensive or unhealthy substitutes, such as bottled water and sugary beverages. As the only mandated non-crisis communication to customers, CCRs present a meaningful opportunity for water systems to share information about water quality, public health, and community concerns.
A total of five Water Data Prize winners were selected by an esteemed panel of judges representing various voices in the world of water, including federal and state agencies, water utilities, trade associations, community organizations, and academic experts. The prize winners are:
- Water Smart
- Tip Top Tap
- Philadelphia Water Department
- Water Data Lab
The current CCR just isn’t the best for clear communications to customers.” said Water Data Prize judge, Alan Roberson, Executive Director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA). “The original thinking and the innovations from the Water Data Prize winners provide options for utilities to turn CCRs into an effective and low-cost way of communicating with their customers and building trust in drinking water.”
Currently, EPA is developing regulations to increase the “readability, clarity, and understandability” and “accuracy” of CCRs. EPIC hopes the Water Data Prize winners will provide inspiration to water utilities seeking to redesign their CCRs, and help lay the foundation for an easily standardized, widely adopted, and well-understood water quality report.
A virtual awards ceremony and policy discussion will be held on January 15 from 1:00-2:00 PM Central Time. To join, please register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_S-1BB9PETNyQEu3doXxOfw. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
The Environmental Policy Innovation Center builds policies that deliver spectacular improvement in the speed and scale of environmental progress. A nonprofit start-up, EPIC is committed to finding and highlighting the best approaches to scaling up results quickly. EPIC focuses on clean water, endangered species, environmental markets and the use of data and technology in producing conservation outcomes. Our work in water focuses on innovative financing, outcomes-based stream and wetland restoration, water quality partnerships, utility consolidation, and the role of data technology in improving consumer trust. For more information, visit www.policyinnovation.org and waterdataprize.com.