In Tap Water We Trust

In Tap Water We Trust

  In the lead-up to National Drinking Water Week, a news article about French consumer confidence in tap water grabbed our attention. The survey found that 80% of respondents “trust” the water coming from their taps. Similarly 74% of respondents are satisfied with the quality of the water in their home and 69% appreciate the taste. We had incorrectly associated Perrier and Evian with what we assumed to be a bottled water tradition or preference in France. Maybe French spring water isn’t tres chic after all. Maybe Americans are the ones who are hooked on bottled water. Consider this: in recent U.S. surveys, only 53% of municipal water customers said they are likely to drink tap water versus bottled or otherwise filtered water. What gives? In an interview earlier this year with Duke University professor and author James Salzman, the United Water Blog asked this very question. If our water in the U.S. is among the cleanest in the world, why is bottled water so prevalent? The answer, in summary, was that water choices like many other ones, are influenced heavily by marketing. And very good marketing at that: bottled water sells for up to 1,000 times the price of tap water. Salzman found in his research for Drinking Water: A History that since the early 90s when Coke, Pepsi and Nestle entered the bottled water market and the consumption of bottled water skyrocketed, Americans have seemingly had an ambivalent relationship with tap water. Whereas in the 70s, if someone went into a gas station and asked for water they would have been directed to the hose outside. On...
United Water Marks Drinking Water Week, Touts Infrastructure Solutions

United Water Marks Drinking Water Week, Touts Infrastructure Solutions

May 4 -10 is Drinking Water Week; a week to raise awareness about the vital role water plays in our daily lives. And public awareness is greatly needed around this topic. Reports continually show that we, as Americans, take safe tap water for granted. No one expects to be without water – not even for a few hours or to face the inconvenience that a ruptured main or repair work can cause. Yet, few are eager to pay for upgrades to water infrastructure; in tax dollars or on a utility bill. For decades, governments at all levels have passed the buck on water infrastructure upgrades. Because of these deferred investment the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) currently grades the nation’s water infrastructure a “D+”, meaning there is a “strong risk of failure.” The ASCE puts a $1 trillion price tag on bringing water mains up to standard over the next 25 years. Yet the story of our nation’s infrastructure is not all doom and gloom. United Water is embarking on an ambitious program to invest nearly $1 billion in our own infrastructure over the next 5 years. And we have recently launched a program for cities, SOLUTION, which will make similarly high levels of investment available to cities who chose to partner with United Water and leverage private capital to meet their needs. After all, the cost to communities of neglected water infrastructure is not just a financial one. Poorly maintained systems will turn back the clock on decades of progress in public health standards – and raise health...
An Interview with Author James Salzman on the History of Drinking Water: Part I

An Interview with Author James Salzman on the History of Drinking Water: Part I

The United Water Blog sat down with Professor Jim Salzman from Duke University to speak about his new book, Drinking Water: A History. We’re both water wonks who have an interest in bringing important information about the most essential public service – water – to a general audience. And that is exactly what his new book does. We asked him for his thoughts on popular water issues and debates; from bottled water, to infrastructure investments. We will publish our interview with Salzman in two installments.   UW Blog: It sounds like the impetus for writing your book was driven by a question: if our water is the cleanest in the world, why is bottled water so prevalent? That’s an interesting question. Can you summarize your findings?   Salzman: To a certain extent I think the fashion changed, consumption preferences changed. Bottled water was long seen as a chic or luxury product. It is less so now, it is more considered as any other beverage choice.For example, my students now want to be seen as environmentally conscious, so there is some kind of peer pressure to drink tap water from a refillable bottle, for example. Student culture has changed. Many environmental groups – in New York and San Francisco for starters – have used public relations campaigns to raise awareness of the environmental impact of bottled water. To their credit – they raised the level of consumer consciousness and have pressed the bottled water industry to be more responsible in their packaging. That’s said bottled water is going head to head right now in market share with sodas and soft...