First opinion poll on water
Protecting water resources and the environment:
what do the French think?

Protecting water resources and the aquatic environment: what do the French think?
The French are aware of the ecological issues associated with water.

Today at the Mayors’ Fair, the French Sustainable Development Ministry, the Water Agencies and the National Office of Water and the Aquatic Environment (ONEMA), in partnership with IFOP, presented the findings of the first French opinion poll on water [1]. Every year, this new tool will find out what the general public is thinking about water management policies and their effectiveness.

Although major, publicly-funded protection programmes have been mobilised to regain good water status for surface and ground water, wetlands, coastal waters and more, the opinion of the French on the knowledge and relevance of these actions is a key indicator for the stakeholders of water policy (elected officials, public authorities, water agencies and others).



Lesson 1:

The French are particularly aware of the ecological and public health issues associated with water and the aquatic environment.

Before the issue of the cost of water (32%), they rank 4 priority ecological issues at the top of their concerns:

  • good management of “the planet’s” water: 51 %,
  • the protection of all aquatic environments: 49 %,
  • the quality of tap water: 48 %,
  • the reduction of river water pollution: 47 %.


Lesson 2:

The French see a direct connection between human activities and the contamination of the aquatic environment and the risks associated with water,indicating as priorities:

for a negative impact on quality:

  • pesticides in fields and gardens: 75 %,
  • hazardous substances: 49 %,
    as well as widespread use of household products:
    –        cleaning and DIY: 56 %,
    –        gardening: 49 %,

for the main causes of flooding

  • construction in at-risk areas: 69 %,
  • the urbanisation and waterproofing of the ground: 62 %.


The main “remedies” to be considered are also identified :

  • treating wastewater: 94 %,
  • reducing hazardous substances: 92 %,
  • managing water use better: 90 %,
  • managing rainwater in cities: 89 %,
  • reducing obstacles on rivers: 83 %,
  • letting rivers take their natural course: 80 %.


Lesson 3:

Beyond this “planetary” perception of the stakes and solutions, the connection between drinking water and the quality of the water in the natural environment is not (always) truly made.

The French are:

  • very worried about the quality of drinking water: 52 %,
  • and (paradoxically) much less so by the state of the rivers, lakes and the coast: 29 %.

Obviously, this means that the authorities must provide clearer explanations on the existence and importance of this connection.


Lesson 4:

The French are mostly satisfied with the way the water is managed in their region (74 %).

The perception that the French have of water management, given its complexity, is still imprecise, and this explains why, in order to sustainably guarantee good management of water and of the aquatic environment, they place priority first on education, raising awareness and the training of the general public (41%), before increasing financial contributions (25%) and applying the regulations (14%).


Lesson 5 :

61% of the French first trust mayors and the presidents of inter-municipal associations for water management..

The French really understand the duality of water, with global issues and solutions that can only be local, which explains the trust they place in their elected officials.


Lesson 6

For the most part, the French have confidence in new solutions proposed to them, such as:

  • treating green areas without the use of pesticides: 96 %,
  • getting rid of dams: 54 %,
  • modifying the course of rivers: 52 %.


and say that they are personally willing to adopt behaviours that protect water resources :

  • complying with water limits : 95 %,
  • buying water-efficient equipment: 60 %,
  • buying organic or non-polluting products: 60 %.

This should reassure elected officials who undertake innovative initiatives and want to foster changes in the way things are done in their cities and local areas.

70% of the French approve of the north/south solidarity policies of the water agencies and local governments.


[1] Sample of 3,514 people, representative of the French population, questioned by phone between October 4 and 19, 2011.

Flux Rss