Calif. Survey Finds Residents Ready to Conserve More

A large majority of Californians are concerned about having a sufficient supply of water and are willing to do more to conserve, according to a new statewide survey released by the Save Our Water program.

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and the California Department of Water Resources recently launched the program to educate Californians about the state's water challenges and encourage greater water conservation.

Conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates on behalf of ACWA, the survey showed that water ranks in the top three issues of concern to Californians, topped only by concerns about the economy and the state budget. Sixty-one percent of Californians labeled their concern about water supply as "very serious"—a greater proportion than said the same for traffic, taxes, or population growth. The proportion calling the water issue "very serious" has gone up 10 points since 2007 and is mostly consistent throughout all regions of the state.

In response to their growing concern about the state's water supply, people also say they are willing to take steps to help save water. According to the survey, more than four in five Californians (85 percent) say they are willing to make significant changes in their household activities to reduce their water use by 20 percent—the target called for by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"State-elected leaders know that water is a major problem for this state, and now we know the people see that as well," said Timothy Quinn, ACWA's executive director. "The good news is that this research tells us that people not only recognize the problem but are personally willing to do something about it—they just need to be educated on the steps they can take. This is where Save Our Water comes in.

"The research tells us that most Californians believe that they use more water inside rather than outside the home, when the exact opposite is true. Californians can save a significant amount of water simply by cutting down on watering their lawns and gardens."

The research, which included focus groups and a statewide telephone survey of 1,750 adult Californians, was concluded at the end of March. The goals of the survey were to assess public awareness of the state's long-term water shortages and gauge public willingness to reduce water use.

Other key findings include:

  • Residents perceive waste of water as a significant factor behind the state's water shortage.
  • Many Californians lack a clear idea of how they can most effectively reduce their water use.
  • Education can play a key role in helping Californians understand the complexities of the state's water problems and take action to conserve.

California's leaders are working to develop long-term solutions, including investments to improve the state's water infrastructure and environment protections. Conservation is an important part of a long-term solution, but it is only one component. Other elements include new surface and groundwater storage to capture water when it is available; alternate Delta conveyance to ensure reliable supply while protecting the environment; integrated regional water management strategies to develop water supplies locally; and research and development of alternate sources such as desalination and recycling.

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