In U.S., Portland Leads in Easy Access to Clean, Safe Water

by Dan Witters

Access to quality water relates closely to overall city satisfaction

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At least 9 in 10 residents in each of the United States' 52 largest metropolitan areas (1 million or more residents) report easy access to clean and safe water. Portland, Oregon, residents are most likely to do so, followed closely by residents in San Francisco, Seattle, and Salt Lake City, according to 2009 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data. Las Vegas residents are least likely to say they have easy access to clean and safe water.


Although large majorities in all metro areas report easy access to water, the differences between the highest ranking and lowest ranking areas mean that several thousand fewer residents perceive that they have access to clean, safe water in certain major metro areas than in others. Furthermore, while 94.8% of American adults nationwide believed in 2009 that it is easy to get clean and safe water where they live, the balance of respondents that do not share this perspective represents the opinions of more than 10 million people.

For a full listing of results for all U.S. metropolitan areas and for 2009 sample sizes, see page 2.

Clean and Safe Water Relates Closely to Better City Satisfaction

Access to clean and safe water is just one metric Gallup uses to measure Americans' basic access at a local level -- a key component of wellbeing. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey also asks respondents to rate their overall satisfaction with their city as well as if they think their city is "getting better or getting worse" as a place to live. While clean and safe water is just one of many factors that can influence Americans' overall perceptions of the city or area where they live, the data document the extent to which perceptions about water quality relate to city satisfaction now and expectations for the future. Residents living in the top 10 metro areas for access to clean and safe water are 8 percentage points more likely to be satisfied with their city or area as a place to live and more than 10 points more likely to say their city is "getting better" than are those living in the bottom 10 metro areas for access to quality water.


Bottom Line

More than seven percentage points separate the nation's highest ranked metro areas for water quality from their lowest ranked counterparts, representing substantial differences in the perceived accessibility of water across the nation.

Some of these public perceptions may be influenced by potential limitations in the supply of water from originating sources; for instance, Las Vegas' substantial dependence on the Colorado River, which feeds the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs. Lake Mead's declining elevations and drought in the Colorado River have been the topics of extensive media coverage since last year in the Vegas area.

Regardless of the cause of public perception, city leaders should recognize that positive public opinion regarding water quality is not universal. Further, improved perceptions about this critical natural resource have the potential to boost residents' satisfaction with their city, as well as their overall wellbeing.

Learn more about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with more than 353,000 American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 29, 2009.

For annual results based on the stated total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points.

The Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) that are characterized in this article are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Maximum expected error ranges for the MSAs vary according to size, ranging from less than one percentage point for the largest cities represented to ±3.1% for the smallest.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only and cell phone mostly).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the daily pulse of U.S. wellbeing and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit well-beingindex.com.


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