Study Finds Aging Water Infrastructure Affects Water Utilities

May 16, 2019

A customer satisfaction study from J.D. Power has found aging infrastructure will need to be replaced soon

A J.D. Power 2019 Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study addressed water quality issues and provided insight into customer satisfaction drivers.

“The good news is that customer reports of water quality issues have been declining steadily from the highs we saw in 2016, and that’s having a positive effect on water utility customer satisfaction,” said Andrew Heath, senior director of the utility practice at J.D. Power, according to a press release. “However, water utilities nationwide are staring down a period of massive infrastructure investment, construction and possible disruption. Effective communication will be critical throughout the process.”

According to J.D. Power, the ability of water utilities to manage the infrastructure investment process will be determined by how well they communicate with customers while minimizing service interruptions and quality issues.

Key findings in the study include: declining water quality issues; water quality and service interruptions continuing to present challenges; customer awareness of infrastructure investment driving goodwill; and proactive communication having an effect, but few utilities deliver.

According to J.D. Power, water quality issue reports have declined to 29% from a high of 34% in 2016; service interruptions and water quality issues have the most negative effect on customer satisfaction; customer awareness initiatives focused on infrastructure investment can offset declines in customer satisfaction; and satisfaction scores are 84 points higher when customers receive proactive communications from their utility.

The U.S. EPA has estimated that $473 billion in drinking water infrastructure investment will be needed in the next 20 years as pipes, treatment, and storage facilities require upgrades and replacement.

The study measures the satisfaction among the customers of 89 water utilities that deliver water to about 400,000 customers. According to J.D. Power, satisfaction is measured by examining six factors: delivery; price; conservation; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

Read the complete study here.