County residents strongly support seawater desalination

Short Title
County residents strongly support seawater desalination
Public opinion survey shows strong support for water supply diversification
July 22, 2004

Editors Note: The full report on the 2004 Public Opinion Poll is available
2004 Public Opinion Survey Report

For the second consecutive year, a public opinion survey shows San Diego County residents overwhelmingly support the diversification of San Diego County Water’s water supply portfolio. Two-thirds of respondents to the survey considered the development of seawater desalination as a new, local water supply a “good idea.” Respondents also indicated strong approval for building seawater desalination facilities adjacent to existing power plants along the San Diego County coast.

The results of the telephone survey, conducted in May and June 2004 by the firm of Rea & Parker Research and the SDSU Social Science Research Laboratory, were presented to the Water Authority board today.

“Public understanding of, and support for projects that diversify San Diego County’s water supply are critical to the Water Authority’s mission,” said Bernie Rhinerson, Water Authority board chairman. “The poll results show that county residents are very knowledgeable on water issues and understand the role diversification plays in proving the region’s water supply reliability.”

On June 24, 2004, the Water Authority board of directors voted unanimously to add seawater desalination and 21 other water supply diversification projects to the agency’s Capital Improvement Program.

Survey respondents also strongly support using recycled water to improve water supply diversity and reliability, especially for landscape irrigation and manufacturing.

Among key findings of the survey:

  • Seventy percent agree with Water Authority efforts to improve reliability and diversify its water supply through seawater desalination. In addition, 75 percent support constructing a facility in San Diego County and 72 percent support locating facilities adjacent to existing power plants along the coast.
  • San Diego’s current water supply is considered reliable by two-thirds of the respondents.
  • Asked about 11 potential uses of recycled water, respondents indicated support as follows:
    • Freeways and golf courses (94 percent favor, of whom 79 percent strongly favor)

    • Toilet flushing in new buildings (87 percent—69 percent strongly)

    • Watering sports fields and parks (86 percent—65 percent strongly)
Electronics manufacturing (85 percent—65 percent strongly)

    • Watering landscape and common areas in multi-family housing (84 percent—61 percent strongly)

    • Industrial processing and manufacturing (83 percent—64 percent strongly)
Watering residential front yards (80 percent—55 percent strongly)

    • Agricultural irrigation (70 percent—51 percent strongly)

    • Watering playgrounds at schools (70 percent—47 percent strongly)

    • Recreational lakes (50 percent—27 percent strongly) 

  • Using highly treated recycled water treated to bring it up to drinking water standards to supplement drinking water supplies was supported by 28 percent of respondents, with 63 percent opposed.
  • The survey indicated public acceptance of High Efficiency Clothes Washers, which use substantially less water per load that standard washers. Almost half of those who purchased a new clothes washer in the past 3 years selecting a high efficiency model.
  • When asked what the San Diego County Water Authority should do to ensure a safe and reliable water supply, 18 percent indicated that seawater desalination should be pursued, 14 percent opted for more water conservation and 13 percent cited the increased use of recycled water.

The survey was conducted with 710 adult participants within the Water Authority’s service area selected through random-digit dialing. Surveys were conducted in Spanish with 7 percent of the respondents. Respondents earned a median household income of $55,500 per year. The median age was 47 years old. All participants had lived in San Diego County at least one year. Respondents were well educated, with 45 percent possessing a least a Bachelor’s Degree. More than two-thirds were homeowners.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to support the region’s $130 billion economy and the quality of life of 3 million residents.

# # #