As we enter the peak water-use months of summer and early fall, it’s worth taking a moment to assess the value of this resource that is often taken for granted. After all, water makes everything possible in this semi-arid region, from baseball fields and microbrews to biotech and backyard gardens.
We recently asked 1,000 county residents what they thought about the value of water as part of the San Diego County Water Authority’s long-running series of public opinion polls. On an unaided basis, two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) said they considered water a good or excellent value. That’s pretty impressive – but it gets better.
A follow-up question asked respondents to estimate how much, on average, municipal tap water costs per gallon in the San Diego region. A majority (53 percent) is unsure; 34 percent believe it costs more than 26 cents per gallon.
After being told that the true retail cost of municipal tap water in the San Diego region is about a penny per gallon, the number of respondents who perceive it be an excellent or good value increased to 76 percent.
Indeed, after all these years helping to safeguard the region’s water supplies, I still find it amazing that we can deliver safe and reliable water supplies at such a modest cost even though we live at the literal end of the pipeline in a region with few natural water resources. That’s a testament to foresight and perseverance of past and current water agency leaders and employees who have developed world-class water facilities for our region.
Our latest public opinion poll shows that San Diegans strongly support what the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have done. For instance, there continues to be overwhelming community approval of the Water Authority’s regional water supply diversification strategy, which includes securing independent supplies from the Colorado River, helping to develop the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, and supporting efforts by our member agencies to develop potable reuse. Nearly eight in 10 respondents (79 percent) support that strategy.
It’s also telling that the county’s water supply is widely seen as reliable, with 83 percent of respondents characterizing it as somewhat or very reliable. Additionally, 80 percent of respondents have a positive outlook on San Diego County’s water supply, believing it is improving (41 percent) or holding steady (39 percent).
And I’m pleased to report significant community support for using water efficiently, with 81 percent of respondents strongly or moderately agreeing that doing so is their civic duty. More than nine in 10 respondents (92 percent) predict they will use less (33 percent) or about the same (59 percent) volume of water in 2017 as they did in 2016, even though drought conditions are over for the time being.
That tells me we are on the right track in San Diego County – investing in long-term water supply reliability while at the same time making the most of every drop.
To learn more about the Water Authority’s 2017 public opinion poll, go to sdcwa.org.
Mark Muir chairs the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Water Authority.