Costa Mesa, California - The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Consumer Confidence Reports, which are produced by all community water utilities in the United States to measure the quality of their drinking water, may not be giving a complete picture of end-consumer water quality. According to the J.D. Power 2018 Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, SM released today, 30% of residential water utility customers indicate they have water quality issues, a rate far higher than what has typically been reported in the Consumer Confidence Reports produced by local water authorities.
“While the mandated water quality reports produced by regional water authorities do a great job of measuring specific water quality issues, they are not telling the whole story when it comes to perceptions of the water that is coming out of customers’ faucets,” said Andrew Heath, Senior Director of the Utility Practice at J.D. Power. “Whether it’s a serious problem like high lead or mineral counts, or a more subjective issue like bad taste or low pressure, a significant number of residential water utility customers are not happy with the product. Water utilities need to understand why customer views are not matching the views of the water utility and need to address these concerns.”
Following are key findings of the 2018 study:
- Nearly one-third of customers report quality problems: Among the 30% of residential water utility customers who mention a quality problem, 12% cite low pressure; 11% cite bad taste; 8% cite scaling/water hardness; 8% cite discoloration; 6% cite bad smell; and 4% cite high lead/mineral content.
- Wide variation in customer perceptions of water quality: Significant differences across the nation are found from the best water utilities having less than 20% of their customers indicating a problem with water quality to many utilities having more than 40% of their customers citing a water quality problem. One utility has more than half of its customers reporting a water quality problem.
- Water quality problems sink customer satisfaction: Customers who experience water quality problems have significantly lower delivery satisfaction scores than those who experience no problems. Bad taste and scaling/water hardness are associated with 143-point declines (on a 1,000-point scale) in delivery satisfaction scores, while scaling/water hardness and bad smell are both associated with a 152-point decline.
- Communication is key when implementing upgrades: One of the most negative effects on satisfaction is a service interruption caused by pipeline work. Satisfaction scores are 42 points lower among those experiencing pipeline work-related service interruptions than those among customers who experience no interruptions. However, when customers have previously been made aware of water utility system upgrades, satisfaction scores are 58 points higher among those who experience no service interruptions.
- Frequent communication maximizes satisfaction: Customers who recall receiving four to five communications from their water utility have communications satisfaction scores that are 148 points higher than among those who do not recall receiving any direct communications.
- E-bill satisfaction higher than for paper bill: Billing and payment satisfaction among customers who receive their bill electronically is much higher than among those who receive a paper bill (796 vs. 758, respectively).
For more information, consumers concerned about water quality are encouraged to review the Consumer Confidence Report provided by their water utility at www.epa.gov/ccr.
Study Rankings by Region
The following utilities rank highest in customer satisfaction in their respective region:
- Midwest: Louisville Water and Saint Paul Regional Water Services (tie)
- Northeast: Boston Water and Sewer Commission and Monroe County Water Authority (tie)
- South: Gwinnett County
- West: Eastern Municipal Water District
The Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its third year, measures satisfaction among residential customers of 88 water utilities, delivering water to a population of at least 400,000 people and is reported in four geographic regions: Midwest, Northeast, South and West. Overall satisfaction is measured by examining 33 attributes within six factors (listed in order of importance): delivery; price; conservation; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.
J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. These capabilities enable J.D. Power to help its clients drive customer satisfaction, growth and profitability. Established in 1968, J.D. Power is headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., and has offices serving North/South America, Asia Pacific and Europe. J.D. Power is a portfolio company of XIO Group, a global alternative investments and private equity firm headquartered in London, and is led by its four founders: Athene Li, Joseph Pacini, Murphy Qiao and Carsten Geyer.