At Wednesday’s PUC Board meeting Ipsos-Reid presented the results of the most recent customer satisfaction survey conducted last November, 2015. As previously announced, the purpose of this survey was to measure improvements in water quality since the implementation of Stage 1 of the Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) that was initiated in 2014. One thousand Sault Ste. Marie residents participated in the survey and made it clear that while there have been improvements, there is still work to do in resolving the taste and odour of the city’s drinking water.
“This survey is an important part of the water quality project,” says Giordan Zin, PUC Supervisor of Customer Engagement. “It provides us with a critical yardstick to qualitatively measure improvements in the city’s water quality since first implementing the additional water treatment processes approximately one year ago.”
The survey found that overall satisfaction with the quality of the city’s drinking water is at 55%, increasing 3% since 2014. Additionally, the number of residents that feel the water is ‘acceptable’ as it is today has jumped from 62% (in 2014) to 68%.
The survey also found that the greatest increases in water quality satisfaction came from; Ward 1 at 38% (up 6% from 2014), Ward 2 at 60% (up 7% from 2014), and Ward 3 at 63% (up 7% from 2014). “The positive trends in Wards 1, 2 and 3 show us that while the concern surrounding water quality remains, we are making encouraging progress in resolving the issue,” says PUC President Dominic Parrella. Compared to 2014, the survey found that residents in Ward 1 provide statistically higher ratings for colour, clarity, smell, and taste.
Based on top-of-mind concerns amongst survey respondents, economic development and jobs are the key issues, identified by 41% of the people polled, while drinking water was identified by only 4%. On the question of where drinking water should rank amongst a predefined list of issues, the survey found that 31% of respondents believe drinking water improvements should be the top priority in the city – this rating has fallen slightly from 35% in 2014. Parrella said that while the customer survey is a critical step in the assessment of the WQIP, it is only one component of the evaluation process. “We believe it is important to involve our customers in the evaluation of the WQIP because our customers are in the best position to tell us whether the quality of their water has improved,” says Parrella. “However, there are two additional studies currently in progress that need to be completed before we can determine what the next step will be concerning the WQIP.”
The decision to proceed with Stage 2 of the WQIP will be established by evaluating a number of criteria including; the results of the Ipsos Reid survey, customer concerns reported to PUC (customer complaints), the results of both the Corrosion Control Study, and yearly regulatory lead testing results. Therefore, the decision on Stage 2 will likely not be made until late 2016, as both studies are still underway and will not be completed until late in the year. The PUC President said the company remains committed to involving customers in the ongoing evaluation of water quality satisfaction.
Another water quality satisfaction survey is planned for late 2016 as part of the PUC’s Customer Engagement strategy. “The importance of engagement tools like this survey cannot be understated,” says Zin. “They provide us with valuable qualitative data that we use to measure progress. After all, our customers are in the best position to measure this progress”.
The customer telephone survey involved a random and representative sample of residential PUC customers in all six wards in Sault Ste. Marie. 190 residents were surveyed in Ward 1, 160 in Ward 2, 180 in Ward 3, 160 in Ward 4, 150 residents in Ward 5 and 160 residents in Ward 6. The cost of the survey was approximately $30,000 and was part of the Water Quality Improvement Project budget.
The previous survey of PUC customers was conducted in May of 2014. Details of the; 2015, 2014 and 2012 customer surveys are available on the PUC’s website at www.ssmpuc.com