Processing Magazine

Survey finds water issues are the top environmental concern worldwide

August 19, 2009

A comprehensive global public opinion survey on attitudes about fresh water sustainability, management and conservation finds that people around the world view water issues as the planet''s top environmental problem, greater than air pollution, depletion of natural resources, loss of habitat and climate change. The poll surveyed 1,000 people in each of 15 countries, and probed 500 in each of the following countries on specific questions: Canada, China, India, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The results were released in Stockholm as part of World Water Week. A close look at the results shows that people around the world view water pollution as the most important facet of the fresh water crisis, and that shortages of fresh water are very close behind. Across the 15 countries surveyed 93 percent say water pollution is a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Ninety-one percent believe that a shortage of fresh water is a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Across the seven focus countries the government is considered among the most responsible for ensuring clean water. Seventy-eight percent say "solving drinking water problems will require significant help from companies," indicating that partnerships are an important component to resolving the world''s fresh water sustainability challenges. Seventy-six percent say they need more information to be able to protect water. While people around the world agree on the importance of the issue, some key differences between the countries surveyed support the idea that solutions will have to be carefully tailored to local conditions. Across the seven countries surveyed, people in Mexico are the most concerned about "lack of water for agriculture" (75 percent are very concerned). People in India are most concerned about "the high cost of water" (60 percent) compared to other countries. People in Mexico express the most urgency about the severity of the pollution and water scarcity issues they face, but also the most optimism about their ability to solve the problems. In all countries, more than half of those surveyed agree that government is responsible for ensuring clean water. When asked whether individual citizens are responsible, however, responses vary widely by country, from a high of 76 percent in Mexico to a low of 30 percent in China. More than five million people die each year due to a lack of safe drinking water, and the United Nations estimates that 5.5 billion people will lack adequate access to fresh water in the next 20 years. Water scarcity and threats to water quality have emerged as serious threats to people and businesses around the world. The independent survey was commissioned by Circle of Blue-the Michigan-based international network of leading journalists, and scientists and communicators focused on global water issues. Molson Coors Brewing Company supported the research, which was conducted by GlobeScan a global survey research firm.