The purpose of this paper is to document drinking water issues and concerns of the urban public in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Urban residents of the Pacific Northwest region of the USA consider drinking water their most important water resource issue. A survey instrument was developed to measure urban satisfaction with drinking water supplies. Data were collected using mail-based surveys conducted at five-year intervals in 2002, 2007 and 2012. Each survey contained 11 questions about drinking water and was mailed to 2,200 randomly chosen residents of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Return rates in excess of 50% were received for each survey ensuring that the results are statistically valid. On a regional basis 60.7, 64.1 and 68.8% of Pacific Northwest residents relied on public water supply systems for their drinking water in 2002, 2007 and 2012, respectively. This number increased to between 79% (2002) and 86% (2012) when only urban residents were considered. Over 86% of urban residents felt that water they obtained from the tap in their home was safe to drink. However, over 26% of survey respondents reported that they often used bottled water. Very little of this bottled water is consumed in the home and instead used more as a convenience rather than for health-related issues. Bottled water use significantly declined between 2007 and 2012. Almost one in four urban residents had a secondary water filter in their home. The use of in-home filters has increased significantly since 2002. Approximately 15% of survey respondents identified minerals (hard water) as a concern in their drinking water. However, other potential contaminants including pathogens, nitrates, pesticides and heavy metals were identIfied as problems by less than 5% urban residents. Overall, the urban public is satisfied that their home drinking water is safe; however, in the last 10 years there has been a trend toward more skepticism and additional in-home treatment of drinking water.
Public opinion, drinking water issues, drinking water safety, adult education, public outreach, bottled water, home water treatment
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