Residents Rank Water Quality & Supply as California's Most Important Environmental Issues

Jan. 28, 2002

The quality and quantity of water available rank as the two most important environmental issues facing California, followed closely by air quality. The findings emerged as part of a recently released research study by the California Water Awareness Campaign (CWAC).

Of 10 statewide issues, water quality and water supply ranked at the top with 83 percent and 82 percent of respondents, respectively, rating them as "very important." Air quality followed closely at 80 percent. Urban development and manufacturing ranked lowest in importance. Women viewed water issues as more important than men.

Of eight issues relating only to water, pollution, quality and security of water supplies ranked highest in importance. The cost of water was ranked least important.

The study was conducted at the end of 2001 by telephone interview to six hundred California adult residents to evaluate perceptions of water and other environmental issues.

The overwhelming response to the question, "Who should do more to conserve water?" was "everyone." Sixty percent of the sample mentioned "everyone, individuals, each of us." Another 15 percent pointed to "residents, people and families." Two percent singled themselves out with "me, my responsibility."

"The results of the Study are encouraging," said Mike Mortensson, CWAC chair. "We'll be using this information to enhance CWAC's public outreach and to try to show Californians that wise water use is important, even when we're not in a drought."

"We also hope to create a better understanding of where our water comes from, how it is delivered and how it is used. If a person can relate to water's importance in their lives and if they understand that our water supply is limited, they will be more motivated to conserve water and use it more efficiently."

More than three-quarters of the respondents (79 percent) said they think a serious drought or water shortage in California is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" within the next few years. When asked to rate the importance of the need for additional water storage, 57 percent said it was "very important."

Only 14 percent of the sample perceived the quality of their tap water "excellent" and 37 percent said they drink bottled water all of the time. Another 44 percent drink it sometimes. The two most frequently reported reasons for consuming bottled water were taste (35 percent) and better quality (36 percent).

The information will be used to help CWAC develop baseline information on attitudes, opinions and behaviors of California residents related to water issues for its public information and education programs. The study was funded by a grant awarded to the campaign by the CALFED Bay-Delta Program.

CWAC is an annual effort that was launched in the late 1980s in response to the state's extended drought. The California Water Awareness Campaign consists of over 300 organizations including urban and agricultural water suppliers from throughout California with a common interest in the wise and efficient use of the state's water resources. As a statewide collaborative effort, CWAC has become a year-long program to raise public awareness of the importance of water in the state and the vital role water agencies and allied entities perform in the conservation, management, supply, quality and distribution of water.

A copy of the executive summary of this study is available online at

Source: California Water Awareness Campaign

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