The study, which surveyed the opinions of nearly 6,700 Americans and experts and was launched at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 28, reveals that access to clean drinking water and the nation’s declining infrastructure are major concerns for Americans.
Nelson A. Switzer, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestlé Waters North America, said that his company, as a leading bottled water company for more than three decades, has a special responsibility to not only operate sustainably, but to help solve collective water issues.
“Our study shows that two in three Americans believe that their community’s drinking water is at risk. No one should have to worry about this because access to clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. As a beverage industry, we are more powerful together than we are apart to help solve for these issues,” Switzer told BeverageDaily.com.
Flint water crisis helped to bring clean water issues to the forefront
One of the takeaways of the new Nestlé Waters study is that clean air may no longer be the primary concern for the average American and this is, consequently, of major significance for the beverage industry.
Tara Carraro, Executive Vice President & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Nestlé Waters North America, admitted that even she was surprised with the fact that Americans now view clean water as the most important natural resource in their daily life, more so even than clean air.
“For years, there has been a tremendous amount of focus, and we’ve made great strides, regarding clean air. But events like the tragedy in Flint, Michigan have brought clean water issues to the forefront, and it’s clear that the time is now to invest in solutions – including investments in infrastructure and innovation – to avoid future crisis and to ensure clean, safe drinking water for everyone,” she added.
In fact, the new Nestlé Waters study has confirmed that many American consumers and experts question whether the tap water in their home (36% and 30%, respectively) and schools (40% for both) is clean and safe.
Parents with school-aged children under the age of 18 are more likely to worry; 45% of this group question the safety of the tap water in their schools. Government officials polled worry the least, with only 16% who say they question the safety of water in their homes.
But the study is not only a snapshot of the present day, as there is widespread concern among Americans that water supply issues will become more pressing within the next decade. Forty-two percent of Americans surveyed believe water will become less available in the next 10 years, and two-thirds believe water crises will have widespread consequences for individuals, businesses and the United States overall.
Beverage industry has a role to play in future access to clean safe water
There is almost universal agreement (96%) that if the US does not proactively invest in the country’s water infrastructure system now, it will end up costing more in the long run.
The new study also reveals that Americans believe significant investments in water infrastructure are needed now to avoid future water crises. And to accomplish this, they expect cross-sector collaboration from a range of organizations – from governments and businesses and environmental organizations – to secure a clean water future for generations to come.
“At Nestlé Waters North America, we believe that access to clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. Regardless of political affiliation or partisan issues, we are committed as a leading beverage company to operate sustainably and to continue to do our part to protect and sustain our water resources and to ensure access to clean, safe drinking water,” said Switzer, adding “we all have a role to play”.
The study is seen by Nestlé Waters as an important point for building new awareness and consensus inside the industry to help do more to protect and sustain water supplies. Nestlé Waters, with large portfolio of bottled waters for healthy hydration, is the third largest non-alcoholic beverage company by volume in the US.
“Americans told us that we need to collaborate – that includes as an industry. We have an enormous opportunity to be leaders in providing access to clean water,” explained Carraro.
In the short-term, the company plans to use the data from the new survey to inform its own decision-making and to support constructive conversations with potential partners and stakeholders to find areas of mutual opportunity and interest.
The study is just the beginning of this initiative as Nestlé Waters plans to share more state-specific findings in communities across the country over the coming months, Carraro concluded.