Do you know all about water? You might know less than you think.
Recently, The Water Main – a social impact arm of American Public Media that endeavors to build public will in support of clean, accessible, affordable water – conducted “the first nationally representative survey designed to measure Americans’ knowledge, connection, concern and action related to water issues facing the country.” The report that followed, highlighted some surprising information about people and water in the United States.
Water + Us: How We Think, Feel and Take Action on Water shows we know less than we might think. The report asked questions about quality, infrastructure, the water cycle, water quantity and water availability (our favorite topic). The authors found that American’s “don’t have a deep knowledge of water issues,” and what they do know, varies. In general, we know more about topics like water demand, flooding and food production, and less about those that relate to infrastructure and human activities like where our water comes from, sources of pollution and which chemicals are regulated.
While climate change gets a lot of public attention (and scrutiny), and the fossil fuel versus clean energy debate rages on, water – the one essential element we humans can’t live without – has become the ignored middle child of environmental concerns. On average, people answered just 48 percent of survey questions correctly. Even having a college degree didn’t result in greater knowledge – just 51 percent of educated respondents got it right.
In spite of their lack of knowledge, 65 percent of people said that water plays a meaningful role in their lives (we would wager that closer to 100 percent of those who have completed our Water Footprint Calculator would say this), and that it is an important part of their recreation. In addition, more than half of the respondents expressed concern over water issues, including immediate concerns like affordability and safety, as well as the future of the nation’s water resources (state water managers worry about that too).
Most people don’t understand how crucial a clean, safe, abundant supply of water is until it is gone from their lives. We hope to be able to change that through this website. We applaud The Water Main for establishing a baseline level of knowledge and acknowledging the country’s concern about our water future.