Report No FR0297

THE PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF DRINKING WATER QUALITY

FR0297

June 1992

SUMMARY

I BENEFITS

Analysis of information obtained from a survey of public opinion, commissioned by OFWAT, has shown that this type of research can provide a valuable insight into factors which influence consumers views on water quality. The data presented in this report will provide a useful basis for designing more detailed surveys of consumer opinion on this subject, should water utilities decide that further investigation is worthwhile.

II OBJECTIVES

To establish whether it is feasible to carry out detailed research into the factors which can influence the public perception of water quality.

III REASONS

Many important decisions at all levels (international, national, regulatory and water company) are driven, at least in part, by subjective judgements rather than a strictly scientific basis. The public perception of water quality can be a powerful force in this context and a better understanding of the factors which can influence consumer opinion could assist water companies in their public relations exercises.

IV CONCLUSIONS

The public perception of water quality is bly influenced by the quality of water received at the consumers tap. Taste, smell and appearance are all major factors in this context. Media coverage and 'incidents/scares' are also important influences on public opinion. Knowledge of water quality standards amongst consumers appears to be sparse, but many consumers interviewed expressed a desire to be better informed.

The OFWAT survey of consumer opinion, carried out by MORI, has shown that it is possible to gather useful information regarding the public perception of water quality. It should therefore be feasible to use consumer surveys to obtain more specific information on this subject.

V RECOMMENDATIONS

The OFWAT survey was not designed to probe deeply into consumers attitudes on drinking water quality or into their perception of water quality. However the survey did demonstrate that it is possible to gather useful information by this method and, if further data are required, it is recommended that more detailed surveys are undertaken.

VI RESUME

This report makes use of data obtained by MORI from a survey of public the Office for Water Services (OFWAT). This report examines the information generated on consumer views of water quality and uses this to try to establish whether it is feasible to carry out further research on the factors which can influence the public perception of water quality.

Copies of the report are available from FWR, price 15.00, less 20% to FWR Members.