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Public perceptions of drinking water: a postal survey of residents with private water supplies

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-6-94

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Abstract:

A cross-sectional postal survey of 246 residences with private water supplies was conducted in May 2004. Questions pertained to the perceptions of water quality and alternative water sources, water testing behaviours and the self-identified need for further information.Private wells, cisterns or both, were the source of household water for 71%, 16% and 13% of respondents, respectively. Although respondents rated their water quality highly, 80% also had concerns with its safety. The most common concerns pertained to bacterial and chemical contamination of their water supply and its potential negative effect on health. Approximately 56% and 61% of respondents used in-home treatment devices and bottled water within their homes, respectively, mainly due to perceived improvements in the safety and aesthetic qualities compared to regular tap water. Testing of private water supplies was performed infrequently: 8% of respondents tested at a frequency that meets current provincial guidelines. Two-thirds of respondents wanted more information on various topics related to private water supplies. Flyers and newspapers were the two media reported most likely to be used.Although respondents rated their water quality highly, the majority had concerns regarding the water from their private supply, and the use of bottled water and water treatment devices was extensive. The results of this study suggest important lines of inquiry and provide support and input for public education programs, particularly those related to private water testing, in this population.Over four million Canadians receive their drinking water from private water supplies, predominantly from groundwater wells [1]. In Canada, the legal responsibility for the condition of private water supplies, such as private wells and cisterns, lies with their owners [2]. There are reports, however, that Canadians with private water supplies test their water intermittently, if at all [1,3], and that water treatment within their

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