San Diego County residents support water supply diversification

Short Title
San Diego County residents support water supply diversification
Public opinion survey shows strong support for seawater desalination and water transfer
July 24, 2003

San Diego County residents overwhelmingly support the San Diego County Water Authority's program to diversify its water supply portfolio through the development of new water resources, according to a public opinion survey conducted for the Water Authority.

Survey respondents also strongly support seawater desalination as a new source of water supply for the county, with 75 percent calling seawater desalination a "good idea." Respondents also support building a seawater desalination plant at the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad, with 72 percent supporting the proposed plant.

The results of the telephone survey, conducted in June 2003 by the firm of Rea & Parker Research and the SDSU Social Science Research Laboratory, were presented to the Water Authority board today.

"The survey results clearly show people are aware of the value and importance of a reliable water supply and support the Water Authority's efforts to diversify its water supply portfolio," said Bernie Rhinerson, Water Authority board chairman. "Taking the 'pulse' of the community on critical issues such as the water transfer and seawater desalination will help as Water Authority board makes critical decisions on the future of our water supply over the next few years."

Among key findings of the survey:

  • Ninety-three percent of respondents agree with the Water Authority's program to improve reliability and diversity of water supply through water transfers, water recycling, and seawater desalination, rather than relying on a single provider for most of the region's water supply.
  • Seawater desalination received support from 75 percent of the region's population. The building of a Water Authority seawater desalination plant at the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad was favored by 73 percent of respondents.
  • Consumers identified power and water as the most important utilities, with water considered a better value. The value of water services was rated as good to very good by 57 percent of the respondents.
  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they thought the Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water transfer was important to San Diego County's overall water reliability.
  • Awareness of important water supply sources and issues has improved dramatically since 2000, particularly regarding the competing demands among states with rights to Colorado River water and with the Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water transfer. Awareness has increased more than 20 percent since the 2000 survey on both of these issues.
  • More than two-thirds of the respondents said they thought the current level of San Diego County's water supply reliability is good.
  • The perception of reliability in the year 2020, with population growth forecasts of 1 million more county residents, reduces respondents' confidence in local water agencies' ability to provide a reliable water supply by 25 to 30 percent.
  • Most San Diego County residents said they practice water conservation at home on a regular basis, but most said their conservation efforts have not changed in the last year. Outdoor conservation through reduction of lawn area or replacement of plants with more water efficient varieties appeals to approximately one-half of those with lawns and landscaping if it meant lower water bills and/or easier maintenance.

The survey was conducted with 603 adult participants within the Water Authority's service area selected through random-digit dialing. Surveys were conducted in Spanish with 5 percent of the respondents. All participants had lived in San Diego County at least one year.

The survey also showed that a majority of those respondents who pay water bills (52 percent) would be willing to pay more to pay for investments in water supply projects that improve the county's water reliability. Overall, these ratepayers would be willing to pay a median increase of $10 more per month in return for greater reliability.

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 $126 billion economy and the quality of life of 3 million residents.

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