The objective of this paper is to identify and analyse the perception of groups of dwellers of Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil, regarding their relationship with the water and sanitation service and aspects of water handling. Participants living in four distinct urban districts of the capital city were interviewed in their own houses and the Discourse of the Collective Subject approach was employed to order the data so obtained. The testimonies revealed the health risk to which individuals were exposed by virtue of: (i) inadequate knowledge concerning the water supply offered, (ii) lack of stimulus to exert their citizens' rights and obligations in relation to the water provided for their consumption and (iii) poor channels of communication between the community, the water and sanitation service and the local public health authority. The study concluded that there is a need to rethink the forms of information provided to the population that are presently adopted by these institutions.
Keywords: discourse of the collective subject, health risk, potable water, qualitative analysis, users' perception, water and sanitation service