Water quality reporting and its association with consumer confidence and use of water in North Texas
Clean water is the cornerstone in public health initiatives and is essential for good health. Often consumers take clean water for granted, in spite of the fact that 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces standards that protect this water, and water suppliers provide annual Water Quality Reports that inform consumers of drinking water's origin and any possible contaminants that pose a threat to the consumer. This exploratory study used an online survey of 293 residents of the central-northeastern section of Texas. The study explored the effectiveness of the annual Water Quality Report as a consumer confidence tool by determining whether the participants read and understood the report, and whether the Water Quality Report provided information that allowed the consumer to make informed decisions about water usage. The results of the study indicated that the descriptive covariates could not predict reading the water report; however they did prove predictive of understanding the report with population size, age, and education being a significant contributing factor. Significance was also seen in areas of age, education, and gender when looking at understanding of specific contents of the report. Further evaluation revealed descriptive covariates affected confidence in drinking the water and tap water consumption. The study was based on the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) used by health educators to explore the relationship between behavior and beliefs, attitudes, and intentions and to apply that information when planning interventions that encourage reading and understanding of the annual Water Quality Report.