Visualizing The Way Americans Value Water

It’s a pretty precious resource, considering that we need it to live. But do we actually care enough to change our behavior to make sure we have it in the future?

The aging water infrastructure in the U.S. is fragile, to say the least; every year, over 1.7 trillion gallons of water are lost due to leaks and breaks in the system. It’s never good to waste water, but that’s a staggeringly unacceptable figure at a time when the country is facing unprecedented droughts. But on a grassroots level, things may be starting to change. Water technology company Xylem’s new Value of Water Index, which examines American attitudes toward water, indicates that the public is finally realizing the magnitude of our water problem—and that everyone might need to pitch in to fix it.

According to the report—culled from a survey of 1,008 voters in the U.S.—79% of Americans realize we have a water scarcity problem. That may seem high, but 86% of respondents also say they have dealt with water shortages and contamination, meaning it takes a lot (or is just impossible) to convince some people. A whopping 88% of respondents think the country’s water structure needs reform.

The problem is, while 85% of people want more government investment, no one is quite sure whether big or small government can best handle the problem: 39% of respondents trust local and municipal governments, 27% want help from state governments, and 22% think the federal government should help out. Realistically, it is probably the local and state governments that will do the most. Around the world, cities are taking the lead on smart water management.

Americans also think they have some personal responsibility for the crisis—specifically, 31% of respondents think they should have to pay a bit more on water bills for infrastructure improvements. If Americans upped their monthly water bill by just $7.70, we would see an extra $6.4 billion for water infrastructure investments.

In spite of everything, 69% of those polled say they take clean water for granted, and just 29% think problems with our water infrastructure will seriously affect them (remember: the vast majority of respondents have dealt with water shortages and contamination already). Water awareness still has a long way to go—but it will most likely be sped up as water shortages become more common.

Here’s the whole infographic:

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