New Survey Reveals Irish Attitudes to Water

In a survey of attitudes to water, including how to pay for it, 49% of Irish respondents agreed that water users should be charged – but thought there should be measures in place to prevent negative social effects. Sixty-three per cent of Irish respondents agreed that the price of water should reflect the environmental impact of water use. And the survey found that more Irish people drink tap water than the EU average – 68% of Irish people drink tap water only, compared to an EU average of 49%.

Some other highlights from the report are listed below.

* The Irish are least likely to think that all water users should be charged for the volume of water they, use regardless of individual circumstances, at 17% – a further 49% agree that water users should be charged but think that there should measures to offset potential negative social effects.

* Across the EU 42% of people think that water users should be charged for the volume of water they use regardless of individual circumstances and 42% think that there should be measures to offset potential negative social effects. Danish respondents were most likely to agree that water users should be charged for the volume of water they use in all cases at 66%. Greek (58%) followed by Maltese and Portuguese respondents (both 57%) were most likely to think that there should measures to offset potential negative social effects.

* 63% of Irish respondents agree, or tend to agree, that the price of water should reflect the environmental impact of water use, i.e. water should be more expensive if its use has a greater impact on the environment. The EU average is 61% with Swedish respondents most likely to be in agreement at 79% and Hungarians least at 51%.

* A large majority (86%) of Irish respondents think that non-potable water re-use should be generalized provided the lower water quality does not affect people’s health. This is marginally below the EU average of 88%.

Other findings from the survey include:

* Only 40% of Irish respondents feel well or very well informed about the problems facing groundwater, lakes, rivers and coastal waters in Ireland compared to an EU average of 37%. Danish (62%) and Austrian (60%) respondents are most likely to feel well or very well informed and Latvians least at 16%.

* A majority of Irish people surveyed (67%) believe that water quality problems are serious, just below the EU average of 68%. Respondents in Romania (94%), Italy (91%) and France (89%) were most likely to consider water quality a serious problem for their country and respondents in Finland (39%) and Austria (40%) least likely.

* 42% of Irish respondents think that the quality of groundwater, rivers, lakes and coastal waters has deteriorated over the past ten years compared to 27% who think it has remained the same and 26% who think it has improved. These figures are similar to the European average: 44% think that the quality of groundwater, rivers, lakes and coastal waters has deteriorated over the past ten years, 25% think it has remained the same and 23% think it has improved. Dutch respondents (46%) were most likely to think that it had improved in their country and Bulgarians and Romanians least at 5%. Similarly, Romanians were most likely to think that water quality had deteriorated over the past ten years at 67%.

* The number of Irish people who see chemical pollution as a main threat to the water environment in Ireland has dropped 3% to 75% since the previous survey was carried out in 2009. Ireland is one of only two countries (the other one being Hungary, which is down 5%) where the numbers of people seeing chemical pollution as a threat is declining. Across the EU, the number is up 9% to 84%.

* Around three-quarters (73%) of Europeans think that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems, and about half of this group (37% of total) would like to be able to express their views on these measures. Fewer Irish people (66%) think the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems and more of them (41%) would like to be able to express their view on these measures. Support for EU measures is lowest in Estonia (55%) and the UK (56%) and highest in Germany and Slovakia (both 81%)

* More Irish people drink tap water than EU average, 68% of Irish people drink tap water only compared to an EU average of 49%. 20% of Irish respondents drink only mineral water and 11% drink both tap water and mineral water.

* Consumption of tap water only is highest in Sweden and Denmark (91%) and lowest in Cyprus and Luxembourg (21%). Consumption of mineral water only is highest in Malta and Cyprus (both 64%) and lowest in Denmark (2%), Sweden and Finland (both 3%).

* 61% of Irish people surveyed think industry does not do enough to use water efficiently. This is a little below the EU average of 65% and also well below Greece at the top of the scale where 77% think industry does not do enough. Respondents in Cyprus and Estonia (both 38%) are least likely to think that industry does not do enough.

* Irish people most likely to agree that households are not doing enough to use water efficiently – 75% of Irish people think that households do not do enough to use water efficiently compared to an EU average of 61% and just ahead of Greeks (73%) and Bulgarians (72%). At the other end of the scale, Estonians (39%) are least likely to think that households are not doing enough.

One thousand people in Ireland were interviewed for the survey between 5 and 8 March 2012 by IMS Millward Brown.

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