Americans Were Asked for Their Views on Water Recycling. Here's What They Said.

A survey finds Americans consider water scarcity a major concern and show strong support for water recycling for irrigation and drinking.

Americans Were Asked for Their Views on Water Recycling. Here's What They Said.

Even in the largely water-rich U.S., a majority of people see water scarcity as a major environmental concern and support water recycling. That’s a key result of a 2020 Earth Day survey of Americans commissioned by SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions.

Nearly 75% of those surveyed agree that there is a global climate crisis. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents say water scarcity is a significant concern of theirs, and 74% agree that more needs to be done in their communities to conserve water. The survey found widespread acceptance of recycled water: 34% of respondents say they would drink recycled water, and 48% are open to its use for irrigation. Only 5% say they would not be comfortable using recycled water for any purpose.

At the same time, 70% of respondents strongly or somewhat agree that recycled water carries a stigma. Seventy-five percent say they would be willing to see their taxes increase if it meant their community would invest more in protecting the local water supply.

Yuvbir Singh, SUEZ CEO, observes, “While most Americans accept the use of recycled water, they aren’t sure their communities are ready to take the plunge. This really highlights the need for broader educational campaigns about the safety of this technology and for further investment in sustainable infrastructure and industrial projects.”

Kevin Cassidy, executive vice president of SUEZ, talked about the survey and its implications in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

Why did your company commission this survey?

Cassidy: It was to connect with our communities and customers and get a sense of where we stand on some important topics. One of our core values is passion for the environment. We wanted to understand what’s on people’s minds, what they understand, and what are they curious about and worried about as it relates to water. We released the results on Earth Day to give everybody a chance to step back and reflect on how they can make a difference.

What was your biggest takeaway from the survey results?

Cassidy: One thing I found interesting was the level of awareness and acceptance of topics like water reuse. I led part of our business in Asia for six years, and I lived in Singapore where you don’t even need to talk about water reuse, because it’s second nature. Water plants there are open to the public; they have museum-type setups with interactive exhibits to help people understand how things work. When I saw our survey results, I was really encouraged: This is something Americans are more accepting of than a lot of us realized. It feels like there is a desire to understand more and to be more aware.

Was it surprising that so many people called climate change a major issue and saw water scarcity as a personal concern?

Cassidy: Climate change gets a lot of press, but less media attention is focused on water and, more important, the value of water. So it was surprising in a positive way to see that people do have concerns and that they are interested in what can be done and how they can help.

What opinions did respondents have about the greatest threats to water supplies?

Cassidy: People were worried about different pollutants and contaminants, from microplastics and fertilizers to PFAS, which is the one that’s getting the most attention lately. These are things we deal with daily when we help our customers in purifying water.

What was your reaction to the 76% of respondents who say more people should be educated on the problem of water scarcity?

Cassidy: I was glad to see that. Education is an important part of driving more water conservation and water reuse. I think more people need to understand the true value of water, what it costs in real terms and what’s behind it.

How would you say the survey results are relevant to water and wastewater operators and others in the water industry?

Cassidy: We talk a lot about the circular economy. That’s what we’d like water professionals to start asking and talking more about: driving more reuse, driving understanding of options. There are places in the world where this is already accepted and adopted, and we can all learn from that and move things forward together.

Did it surprise you that most respondents say water conservation is not enough and that more technology-based action is needed?

Cassidy: I agree that conservation is not the only thing we can do. Reuse is at the heart of it. It’s been easy for companies or consumers to just draw from surface waters or groundwater nearby. But the technology is there to enable greater efficiency, higher recovery rates, reuse on site, closed loops and everything else that can be done to streamline the process. We need to do more to use what we have more wisely.

NOTE: This online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults was commissioned by SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions and conducted by the OnePoll market research company on Feb. 13-18, 2020. Participants were paid, and the survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team. Participants opted in through the OnePoll website where core demographic information (such as gender, age and region) was collected, with a verification process to ensure that postal code and email addresses were correct. Participants were then sent an email containing a link to confirm their registration. The survey margin of error was plus or minus 2.2%. The complete survey results are available at   


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