Q&A: Filling in the Gap

July 6, 2021

Q&A with Rick Andrew from NSF Intl., regarding the U.S. Drinking Water Filtration and Treatment Survey

About the author:

Rick Andrew is director of global business development – water systems for NSF Intl. Andrew can be reached at [email protected].


In April 2018, NSF Intl. conducted the U.S. Drinking Water Filtration and Treatment Survey, polling more than 1,100 national consumers. The survey revealed a gap between consumers’ water quality concerns and actions taken to treat their water. WQP Associate Editor Lauren Del Ciello asked Rick Andrew, director of global business development - water systems for NSF Intl., about the survey and how water treatment professionals can educate consumers.

Lauren Del Ciello: Who is represented in the NSF Intl. 2018 Drinking Water Survey?

Rick Andrew: The results are based on an April 20 to 23, 2018 online survey of 1,106 adults in the U.S. The survey was conducted for NSF Intl. by Ketchum Global Research & Analytics, using YouGov’s omnibus panel. The figures have been weighed to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error for this survey was 1% to 3% at the 95% confidence level.

Del Ciello: What are some key takeaways?

Andrew: There seems to be an underlying gap between consumers’ concerns and their actions. While most U.S. consumers drink tap water (71%) and more than half (55%) are concerned about or don’t know which contaminants are in their drinking water, nearly half (42%) do not take steps to filter or treat their home’s drinking water. Another interesting finding: While most survey respondents understand there are various types of filtration options designed to treat specific contaminants, most people simply use the filter that came with their house or with their refrigerator. This could be a problem since filters and treatment systems are designed to reduce specific contaminants. Two other takeaways: Millennials (ages 18 to 34) and seniors (ages 55+) were [the] least knowledgeable about how filters work; and parents knew more about what’s in their drinking water (52%) than people without children (41%).

Del Ciello: What kinds of treatment options are trending with consumers?

Andrew: Refrigerator filter systems are a trend, partly because so many refrigerators include a filtration system as part of the water dispenser. Consumers are focused on several criteria, including confidence in product quality and the treatment it provides, cost, ease of installation, and maintenance and convenience. In general, the water treatment product category is confusing for consumers because there are so many different treatment needs, options in technology, differences in configuration, large ranges in price, multiple purchasing channels and different degrees of aftermarket support. 

Del Ciello: How can water treatment dealers educate their customers and communities?

Andrew: Many consumers who are considering purchasing treatment equipment are in research mode, seeking to understand issues of water quality and trying to learn more about the various options available for treatment. Serving as a source of this information and providing valuable information is a great way to add value and gain trust of consumers. Information can be offered online, especially through social media, although dealers may want to consider making it clear that more information can be offered by speaking directly to a representative.

Del Ciello: How can individuals ensure safer drinking water in their homes?

Andrew: Understanding the untreated water quality is a first step. For those on public water supplies, water quality reports—officially known as Consumer Confidence Reports—are an excellent source of information. Test results from accredited drinking water testing laboratories are always highly useful. Once the water quality is known and understood, specific treatment needs can be identified. From there, an assessment of treatment technologies, product configurations, costs and installation and maintenance service options can be conducted. This assessment allows consumers to choose among treatment products that are third-party certified to reduce their contaminants of concern, and ultimately, select the best overall option for them and for their family.

Del Ciello: Why is this survey important?

Andrew: Communities across the U.S. are dealing with drinking water contaminants of various types ... As the survey suggests, people are definitely concerned about what’s in their home drinking water, yet more than four out of every 10 respondents say they are not taking steps to purify their water. By highlighting this gap between consumer concerns and actions, perhaps we can start building awareness of the issue and of the importance of better protecting our drinking water.