Helping Consumers Understand Water Quality
Every drinking water utility in America is required by law to provide their customers with a report (the 'Consumer Confidence Report' or CCR) each year, with testing data on what's in the water and whether it is safe to drink. However, most reports are extremely hard to understand, available primarily in English, and are only available in limited formats.
In 2020, Environmental Policy Innovation Center launched a data competition and invited submissions that show or visualize this information better, so it would be more useful to consumers. Their report, Re-Envisioning Water Quality Reports, captures some of the top themes from those submissions and presents recommendations for utilities and regulators to put the "consumer" in consumer confidence reports.
The winning designs are here. The report highlights a few of the many simple lessons from the competition, such as:
Use plain language—like 8th grade level—to make sure people can understand the data
Provide translation and visual accessibility options to ensure wider reach
If specific contaminants—like toxic lead—are important locally, make the local priority info more visible
Use interactive connections with consumers to engage them—the simple information can be visible, and complex information one or two clicks away
Translate numbers into graphics and visuals—especially relational ones that anyone can understand.