Oct 23, 2012

Survey Shows Americans Support 'Toilet-to-Turf' Water Reuse Solutions

GE consumer survey indicates that two-thirds of Americans feel positive about water reuse

Water Reuse GE

Despite the “ick factor” often associated with recycled water, two-thirds of Americans feel positive about water reuse, according to the survey of 3,000 consumers in the U.S., China and Singapore. The survey reports that Americans also think that industry and government should play a stronger role in making water reuse a priority.

This is a significant finding, considering that 36 U.S. states face water shortages in the coming year and by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population — or 5.3 billion people — will be vulnerable to water shortages.

While the majority of Americans hesitate at the concept of “toilet-to-tap” recycling, more than 80% of Americans surveyed indicated that they support using recycled water for many “toilet-to-turf” uses — activities that require significant amounts of nonpotable water, such as agricultural irrigation, power generation, landscaping, industrial processing and manufacturing, toilet flushing and car washing.

Nearly 20% of the world’s freshwater resources are used for industrial purposes and nearly 70% for agriculture. The survey showed that Americans feel that the largest water users are most responsible for contributing to water scarcity. Large industries, agriculture and utilities and power companies were seen as most responsible for contributing an “extreme amount” or “quite a bit” to water scarcity.

Americans also see the connection between energy and water — 86% understand that you need energy to deliver water and 74% are aware that you need water to create energy. Americans expect energy industry leaders to demonstrate water stewardship by using recycled water to produce electricity, and believe this can positively impact cost and efficiency. Around 84% said smart water management can help the U.S. more efficiently create and use energy and 87% of Americans are in favor of using recycled water for power generation, more than any other application.

Despite having positive perceptions of water reuse and a good grasp on the country’s largest water users, Americans’ understanding of the water lifecycle and solutions lags behind that of those surveyed in China and Singapore. For example, 31% of Americans do not know where their water comes from, compared to only 14% of those in China and 15% of those in Singapore.

Additionally, Americans are looking to national government to take the lead to advance water reuse. Approximately eight in 10 (84% of) Americans believe protection of water resources should be a national priority. However, Americans are willing to do more than just call on the national government; they will open their pocketbooks as well. Nearly half would immediately pay more — 12% on average — to ensure that future generations will be less vulnerable.