Perceptions of Drinking Water Quality—A Review of the Literature and Surveys Covering the Topic
This paper reviews recent literature on water quality perceptions, discusses existing surveys that ask questions on water quality, and outlines information on actual water quality data that are available for the United States. Past research has shown that though most householders in the U.S. view their water quality favorably, a significant number have negative perceptions of their tap water; those with negative views disproportionately tend to be ethnic/racial minorities and those with low incomes. In turn, these households are more likely to turn to expensive and environmentally damaging alternatives such as bottled water. The authors propose a set of question based on the literature review that focus on primary source of drinking water, alternative sources of drinking water, and the perceptions of tap water.
As no other federal survey asks about perception of water quality and resulting behaviors, the authors argue that HUD could include a module of questions to the American Housing Survey (AHS) that would provide data to determine and track the link between perception of water quality and local-level communication regarding it, the effectiveness of the frequency of receiving such information, and other factors that link perception and consumption.
The AHS is particularly well-suited for these questions as the survey already collects information on the water and plumbing systems in the home alongside other housing characteristics, such as the age of the home, that might be important indicators of water quality.