kitchen sink with a drop of water falling

Cwiertny and Zuhlke Receive NSF Grant to Study Public Confidence in Tap Water


David Cwiertny, director, and Samantha Zuhlke, research fellow, of the Environmental Policy Research Program received $50,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of work on public trust in tap water and bottled water consumption. Partnering with the Des Moines Water Works, the team aims to assess vulnerable populations' perceptions of tap water in Des Moines, and develop solutions to address the inequitable consumption of bottled water both in Iowa and across the U.S.

Vulnerable populations within the U.S. are most likely to consume commercial water products like bottled water, despite these products being less regulated, environmentally destructive, and more expensive than tap water. Working with Des Moines city services, the team will interview community members of Des Moines, Iowa and analyze patterns in commercial water consumption to understand concerns about tap water. Using this information, they will design strategies to improve consumer confidence in tap water and apply these to address issues of equity in other basic services.

Cwiertny and Zuhlke received a Civic Innovation Challenge award, making theirs one of 56 teams across the country to receive a planning grant from the NSF. The award is in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.