From the Editor - February 2022

Poor understanding of water usage begs for outreach efforts.

With the advent of smartphones and watches and a variety of health and fitness apps, it’s gotten common for people to know how many steps they’ve taken in a day, how many calories they’ve burned and a variety of other metrics. Yet very few of those people have a good handle on their daily water consumption. Most have no idea.

Research backs that up. Americans underestimate the amount of water they use daily by 90%, according to new research conducted by global research agency Opinium on behalf of American Water. With a majority of Americans underestimating their own personal water usage, the study also found a lack of awareness for water consumption in specific areas of their lives. Most believe they use less than 100 gallons of water each day, but according to Water Footprint Network, the real number is more like 2,000 gallons when taking indirect use into account.

Letting the water run while brushing teeth tops the list of the most common wasteful activities, with one in five Americans doing this every day. Assuming people are brushing their teeth twice a day for a minute each time, this would waste 3 gallons of water each day or 1.5 gallons each minute. With nearly 20% of the U.S. adults doing this daily, that means around 149.9 million gallons of water are lost every day to this easily changeable routine.

The Opinium survey found that Americans — regardless of gender, homeownership or age — are largely unaware of their water footprint and the variety of ways in which water impacts their everyday lives. Most don’t realize how much water is required to produce foods, clothing and other products.

That poses challenges for you both directly and indirectly. Extra water means additional rate revenue, but you’re also taking on the extra expense of wastewater treatment along with greater use of the resource. On the bright side, almost 90% of Americans are open to incorporating at least one new water-conserving habit this year, and while you won’t likely make an impact on their indirect use, you have the potential to make a meaningful impact on direct water use.

How much water could your utility save if you invested some effort in outreach to get more of your customers to turn off the water while brushing their teeth? Or only running the dishwasher and washing machine when they’re full? Or shorter showers? Less lawn watering?

There are plenty of ways to approach the issue. None will solve the problem, but each bit helps. The mere fact that the average American has so little understanding of how much water they use shows that most people are unknowingly and stubbornly using more than their share. It’s a simple lack of awareness in many cases, and that presents opportunity. It’s opportunity to educate, to build better relationships with your customers through outreach efforts and to make a difference in your communities.

Here’s hoping you can make something positive out of the problem.

Enjoy this month’s issue. 


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