From Wastewater to Saved Water: GE Survey Finds Most Americans Support Water Reuse0

ecomagination staff | Tue Oct 23 2012

This summer, droughts across the United States provided a stark reminder of how precious a resource water is, and highlighted the need to prioritize sustainable water management.

In the U.S., wastewater reuse – defined by using water more than once before passing it back to the natural water cycle -  is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective strategies for water conservation. According to the results of a new survey, GE’s 2012 International Water Reuse Survey, most Americans support it, and are more likely to patronize businesses employing the technology.

The findings were contrary to the popular belief that the “ick” factor would play a role in consumer decision making. The survey, which drew on the responses of 3,000 adults, 1,000 each in the U.S., China and Singapore, presented a broader picture of how consumers in these counties view water reuse, and the future of water distribution.

Businesses benefit from water reuse

The benefits to business from water recycling extend further than a lowered utility bill. According to the survey, 57 percent of Americans reported being more likely to patronize a business that prioritized water reuse, and 42 percent reported they would patronize the company reusing water even if their product or service cost more.

The survey also found that the vast majority of Americans want utilities, large industries, and agriculture to take the lead in water reuse, and hold the most favorable impressions of those that use recycled water.

“GE sees water reuse as a critical solution to help reverse the trend of growing water scarcity in the U.S. and around the world, and the technology needed to move toward that reality is available today,” said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water. “We can deliver the advanced technology to efficiently treat, recycle and reuse water—such as our ecomagination-qualified ZeeWeed membrane technology. Each day, GE technology is used to treat more than 2 billion gallons of water. We continue to invest millions of dollars every year in R&D to innovate more cost-effective and energy-efficient technologies to support a sustainable water future.”

Willing to do their part

But consumers were also willing to do their part -  nearly half of Americans reported they would pay up to 12.4 percent more for water that was sustainably sourced in the interest of protecting future generations.

However, knowledge of the issues, including the terms “recycled water” and “water reuse”,  was found to be lacking in the United States when compared to China and Singapore. But there was a positive correlation between Americans who knew the terms, and those that supported water reuse, which highlights the potential to use education to foster further support for reusing water.

The majority of Americans also saw the need for government to step up and protect water resources: 77 percent of respondents agreed that water scarcity is a national issue, and 84 percent agreed that protection of water resources is a national issue.

While the need for further education about water remains, the results of the study strongly suggest that Americans support water reuse. The survey also creates a framework for understanding how water recycling efforts provide measurable benefits to businesses, government, and utilities.

Top image courtesy Jon Rawlinson, accessed from Flickr Creative Commons.