News Feature | April 28, 2021

Survey: Among Environmental Issues, Americans Most Worried About Water Quality

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


Among the most significant environmental concerns facing the country, Americans are the most concerned about the ones that affect water quality, according to the latest iteration of Gallup’s yearly environment survey.

“Majorities express ‘a great deal’ of worry about the pollution of both drinking water (56%) and rivers, lakes and reservoirs (53%),” per Gallup. “Although degrees of worry have shifted over time, the rank order has remained largely consistent, with water pollution outpacing all other threats.”

The poll, which has been conducted for the last 21 years, found that water-quality concerns outranked concerns around loss of tropical rainforests, climate change, air pollution, and the extinction of plants and animals. And it also found a distinct difference in viewpoints around these issues based on political leanings.

“Partisan differences were evident in Gallup’s findings,” The Hill reported. “The most substantial disparities lie in the issue of climate change. While 68 percent of Democrats said they were highly concerned, only 14 percent of Republicans felt the same.”

The poll did not dive into the specific water-quality issues of concern among respondents, but simply asked them to rank their personal levels of worry about “pollution of drinking water” and “pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.” But there are some ongoing water-quality issues that have likely played into the concerns of many of the respondents.

Source-water contamination stemming from the production of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and drinking-water contamination caused by lead-based infrastructure are significant concerns for many people living in the U.S., for instance.

“When it comes to environmental problems, Americans remain most concerned about two that have immediate and personal potential effects,” Gallup concluded. “For the past 20 years, worries about water pollution — both drinking water and bodies of water — have ranked at the top of the list. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, laid bare the dangers of contaminated drinking water and no doubt sticks in the public’s minds.”

To read more about how water systems gauge the concerns of ratepayers, visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.