The “baby boomer” generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – is more concerned about access to clean and safe water than younger generations, according to a study.

The Watermark Study by sustainability specialists Ecolab found that while concern about water scarcity was high across all generations, older generations expressed higher levels of concern than their younger counterparts.

A survey of more than 25,000 consumers across 15 different countries for the study found the “baby boomer” generation are notably more concerned than Millennials (78%) (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (74%), who are typically defined as being born from 1997 onwards.

But the data also shows concern appears to increase by generation, with almost three of every four consumers noting concerns.

And Generation Z consumers are less inclined to take immediate action (41%) but report a willingness to act one or more years into the future (56%).

Ecolab’s chief sustainability officer, Emilio Tenuta, said in an interview the new insights build on findings released last fall from its global Watermark Study, which found almost three-quarters (74%) of believe businesses should make conserving water a high or essential priority.

Tenuta said one of the big takeaways from both data sets was that access to clean and safe water was paramount across the consumers in almost every region around the world.

He added the data also make it clear that consumers hold government and businesses responsible for water conservation and how some consumers are sceptical when they see governments and private organisations set big conservation goals, but do not necessarily achieve them.

Tenuta told me the latest survey results show while younger generations are concerned about sustainability and climate change, the topic of water may not be at the top of their minds.

“For baby boomers and older generations, the availability of clean water is an immediate issue,” he explained. “It impacts them now.”

He added the survey results show younger generations still feel it is important, but it is not necessarily something that impacts them today, although it may in the future.

Tenuta said he believes access to clean water is not just essential for life, but also for business and economic growth.

“At the heart of the climate crisis is really a water crisis, and the way we experienced the effects of climate change is through water,” he told me.

“America is using groundwater like there’s no tomorrow and thousands of municipal water systems rely primarily on groundwater, so this is obviously a big deal. We just don’t necessarily hear about it in the way we do about climate change.”

Will Sarni, the founder and chief executive of consultancy Water Foundry said in an email the Ecolab research provides valuable insights into how the general public views the quality of their drinking water.

“While the study indicates that older generations place a higher importance of quality and safety, all generations served viewed the safety and quality of water as very important,” added Sarni.

“This is not surprising as the quality of drinking water is a public health issue, and the results of this study is a call to action to the public and private sectors to ensure adequate investment in water infrastructure and innovative technologies.”



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