New Jersey Institute of Technology Poll on Water: Residents Don't Mind Water Restrictions and Would Cut Usage

NEWARK, April 15--New Jersey residents do not view water use restrictions as a major inconvenience for them and their families, according to the newest New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Poll on Water. The poll showed that if asked, most residents don't mind most water restrictions and would cut usage. Most of them are happy to conserve water by taking showers instead of baths, or turning off the water while they wash, brush their teeth, or shave. But more than one in three balk at the idea of installing a water-efficient toilet or - even worse - flushing their toilet less.

"Actually, flushing your toilet less is not as efficient a method of conservation as installing a low-flow shower head. The shower head outputs one half of the flow, saving 15 gallons per shower," says Taha F. Maharba, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental engineering and director of the New Jersey Applied Water Research Center at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). "People can save about 15 percent of their daily water usage by installing the low-cost, low-flow shower heads."

More than three out of four (76 percent) New Jersey residents believe that individual reductions in household water consumption can make a great difference (36 percent) or at least some difference (40 percent) in reducing problems.

By nearly eight to one, New Jerseyans say the best reason to conserve water is because it's "the right thing to do" rather than because using less water will cost less money. "Well, that's good," says Marhaba, "because, although water costs little now--especially for residents of one of the highest income per capita states in the nation--the cost is rising. Higher prices are bound to come about due to the need for improvement in the infrastructure and the driving forces behind the increasingly stringent standards and regulations. Actually, rate structuring should be used as an effective tool for water conservation in this state due to the frequently recurring drought emergencies."

Considering some ways the state and water utilities might address the current water situation, New Jersey residents think it is a better idea to repair old pumping stations and leaky pipes than drill new wells, seed clouds to make rain, or purchase water from other states.

Other findings:

  • Only a very small minority of New Jerseyans realize just how much water they use every day. A mere three percent of New Jersey residents think they use 100 or more gallons of water a day. "Actually, that's correct. The average New Jerseyan does use about 100 gallons of water daily," says Hsin-Neng Hsieh, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate chair of the department at NJIT. "This figure includes usage for drinking, showering, bathing, and more."
  • A majority of New Jersey residents (58 percent) rate their tap water as excellent (15 percent) or good (43 percent), though more than one in three rate it as only fair (24 percent) or poor (14 percent). Nearly as many New Jerseyans drink bottled water (40 percent) as drink the tap water (47 percent) when they drink water at home. Residents who like their tap water are less than half as likely to drink bottled water at home as those who rate their water as fair or poor.

  • Younger New Jersey residents are more likely to drink bottled water (52 percent) than tap water (34 percent) at home. Among seniors, seven in ten (69 percent) drink tap water, compared to just one in four seniors (24 percent) who drink bottled water.

  • New Jersey residents are more likely to think that the state water supply is safe from carcinogens and toxins than they are to think it safe from sabotage or terrorist attack.

  • More than six in ten (62 percent) say the state's water supply is very safe (12 percent) or somewhat safe (50 percent) from carcinogens and toxins, while just one in ten (10 percent) say the water supply is "very safe" from sabotage or attack by terrorists. Fully 17 percent say the New Jersey water supply is "not safe at all" from sabotage.

  • New Jersey residents are willing to wash the car less often or cut down on watering the lawn, but many pool owners will refill their pools same as always. While just 7 percent of car owners will not wash their car less often, and 7 percent of those with lawns say they are unlikely to water their lawn less, fully 37 percent of New Jersey residents who have pools say they are unlikely to conserve water by not filling or refilling their pools less.

The poll was conducted among 400 New Jersey adults selected randomly from a list of residential phone numbers. The interviews were conducted by telephone from April 1-5, 2002. Quotas were established by region based on census population figures in New Jersey counties. The margin of error for this poll is 4.9 percent on the overall sample. The margin of error on subsamples is greater.

Editor's Note: Graphs with colored illustrations depicting the comments of the polled residents are available electronically from Sheryl Weinstein.


NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.

Contact Information:   Sheryl Weinstein
Robert Florida
Public Relations 
(973) 596-3433