County residents support drought-tolerant, California-friendly landscapes

Short Title
County residents support drought-tolerant, California-friendly landscapes
Public opinion survey shows strong support for water conservation and recycled water use.
February 22, 2007

The newest public opinion survey conducted for the San Diego County Water Authority shows that increasing numbers of San Diego County residents are ready for drought-tolerant landscapes for their homes. In addition, respondents generally felt that California-friendly landscapes were easier to maintain, no more costly and just as attractive as more traditional landscaping – important views that Water Authority officials said will help facilitate new conservation programs.

“The results of this poll show that the public understands and supports the Water Authority’s efforts to increase water supply reliability,” said Board Chair Fern Steiner. “As the Water Authority shifts its conservation emphasis to outdoor water efficiency, this survey will provide critical information needed to design new programs and incentives that will help us achieve our goal of saving 100,000 acre-feet of water annually by 2020.”

Among key conservation related findings of the survey:
    •    When asked about California-Friendly, drought tolerant landscaping, residents indicated that they regard such landscaping to be easier to maintain than traditional landscaping (83 percent), at least as attractive (67 percent) and no more costly (55 percent).
    •    Approximately two-fifths (41 percent) of respondents might be motivated to reduce the size of their grass lawn to make maintenance easier. Another one-fourth (27 percent) might be more motivated by saving money through lower water use. These proportions are significantly greater than the responses to the same question in 2003.
    •    More than one-third (34 percent) might be motivated to replace existing plants with drought tolerant plants because of easier maintenance and 38 percent because it would reduce their water bill.
    •    The number of respondents who indicated they had installed weather-based, smart irrigation controllers tripled from 2005, increasing from 3 percent to 9 percent, while the number who indicated that they had not heard of smart controllers decreased by a comparable 6 percent, from 72 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2006.

The firm of Rea & Parker Research conducted the telephone survey in December 2006. Richard A. Parker, Ph.D, principal of Rea & Parker, presented the results of the survey to the Water Authority board today.

Other significant findings of the survey:
    •    More that three-quarters of the respondents considered San Diego’s current water supply reliable, better than in any of the prior years’ surveys.
    •    Confidence in local water agencies’ ability to ensure water reliably in 2030 (59 percent) represents a significant increase in confidence as compared to surveys conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
    •    Residents want their water supply to be as reliable as possible and would opt for development of local water supplies (55 percent) over importing more water (25 percent) to ensure reliability.
    •    More than two-thirds (69 percent) of respondents perceived recycled water as safe.
    •    More than 80 percent of respondents strongly supported using recycled water for replenishing toilets in office buildings and businesses, watering neighborhood parks and sports fields, and watering home yards. Approximately two-thirds of respondents also supported using reclaimed water for irrigating San Diego County crops, use in recreational lakes, and for watering school playgrounds.
    •    More than two-thirds (70 percent) of residents say that they have heard of the Water Authority, with almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the population reporting a favorable image.

The survey was conducted with 700 adult participants within the Water Authority’s service area selected through random-digit dialing. Respondents earned a median household income of $61,100 per year. The median age was 49 years old. All participants had lived in San Diego County at least one year, 64 percent were homeowners and 52 percent possessed a least a bachelor’s degree.

Click here to view the Survey Report

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