New Global Public Opinion Survey Finds Water Issues are Top Environmental Concern Worldwide
Circle of Blue reports water pollution and shortage of fresh water emerge as most important water-related issues
STOCKHOLM (August 18, 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 on August 18 in Stockholm as part of World Water Week. The independent survey was commissioned by Circle of Blue, the Michigan-based international network of leading journalists, scientists, and communicators and Pacific Institute affiliate focused on global water issues. Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE: TAP) supported the research, which was conducted by GlobeScan, a global survey research firm.
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 (72 percent) or somewhat serious (21 percent) problem.
- 91 percent believe that a shortage of fresh water is a very serious (71 percent) or somewhat serious (20 percent) problem.
Across the seven focus countries:
- Government is considered among the most responsible for ensuring clean water.
- 78 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.
- 76 percent say “I need more information to be able to do more 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.
“This research shows that across the globe, concerns about water are reaching a critical level of public consciousness,” said J. Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue co-founder and director. “People think water is the most important environmental concern, in many cases more pressing than climate change. It’s the axis issue that intersects the world’s greatest challenges, from health, poverty, and security to climate, immigration, and environment, even financial and commodities markets.”
Chris Coulter, vice president of GlobeScan, said, “This research confirms the general public’s awareness and understanding of water as a critical resource, as well as the importance of conserving and protecting fresh water supplies through stewardship. From locale to locale, the angles of most concern may vary, but the concern about water issues is pressing, virtually everywhere.”
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.
Full WaterViews survey results, including photos, interactive maps, and detail for each of the seven featured countries, is available at http://www.circleofblue.org/waterviews. Daily reports on the world’s water issues are available at Circle of Blue WaterNews.
About Circle of Blue
Circle of Blue is the international nonprofit network of leading journalists, scientists and communications design experts that reports and presents the information necessary to respond to the global fresh water crisis. It is an affiliate of the internationally recognized water, climate and policy think tank, the Pacific Institute. Circle of Blue publishes WaterNews, the daily go-to source for global water news and data. It is also the co-founder of the global initiative, Designing Water’s Future, a partnership with Collins: Transformative Design, AIGA and INDEX. Circle of Blue practices non-advocacy journalism and science, striving to report issues to the highest standards of journalistic and scientific ethics. For more information, visit the Circle of Blue Web site, www.circleofblue.org.
GlobeScan Incorporated is a global survey research firm providing strategic advice to companies, multilateral institutions, governments and NGOs, on reputation, sustainability, and corporate responsibility. GlobeScan is a world leader in conducting comprehensive survey research in all regions of the world amongst general publics and stakeholders. www.GlobeScan.com
Read the WaterViews survey and results.