Two girls and man walking in wooded area alongside river water

People’s trust in their water company, as well as the industry as a whole, can be influenced by a range of different factors, including service quality, level of communication and cost.

Through this research, we wanted to delve deeper into people’s levels of trust and their perception of their water company to see whether this had changed over the past year.

We also wanted to examine what actions were needed to start rebuilding trust where it had been eroded.

Key findings

On awareness and perceptions of water companies

  • The majority of people (96%) claim to be aware of who their water company is. However, levels of awareness are lower among younger people, those not responsible for water bills, and those living in the North West.
  • Nearly half of people (46%) have positive associations with their water company while a third have negative associations (34%). The findings are reversed when it comes to perceptions of the water industry as a whole, with half having negative (50%) and a third having positive (34%) perceptions.
  • Over 3 in 5 (62%) say their perceptions of their water company have not changed in the last year, but where there was change it tended to be for the worse (23%).

On improving levels of trust

  • General levels of trust in water companies are fairly high for providing reliable services that are fit for the future and keeping consumers well informed. However, consumer trust in water companies to protect the environment is the lowest of the aspects measured.
  • Welsh residents are more likely to trust their water company than respondents in England, across all areas.
  • Looking out for the environment more as well as fixing leaks come out as top measures that would improve trust levels.

Water companies should ensure that their communication with customers is focused on raising awareness of the work they are doing to address key issues of trust, in order to start to rebuild it. Our previous research has shown that consumers want water companies to be transparent and improve how they protect and enhance the environment, but the practicalities are beyond people’s scope of knowledge. By breaking down this awareness gap, water companies – and the sector as a whole – are in a far stronger position to gain credibility and, in time, renewed trust.

Download Perceptions and trust in water companies (pdf – 2 MB)