A recent poll looks at the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of California residents related to water issues.

During October and November 2001, the Public Information and Education Assessment Study was conducted for the California Water Awareness Campaign (CWAC) to develop baseline information on attitudes, opinions and behaviors of California residents related to water issues.

Some of the most significant findings of the survey include:

  • Of 10 statewide issues, water quality was ranked highest with 83 percent of the respondents rating it as "very important." Water quality was followed closely by water supply at 82 percent and air quality at 80 percent.

  • Of eight water issues, pollution, overall quality and security of water supplies ranked highest in importance. The overall cost of water was ranked last in importance, being mentioned as the most important water issue by only 1 percent of the sample.

  • Almost all of the respondents (98 percent) indicated that drinking water quality was very or somewhat important. Only 14 percent of the sample perceived the quality of their tap water "excellent."

  • Thirty-seven percent of the respondents reported drinking bottled water all of the time, while 44 percent indicated drinking it sometimes. The two most frequently reported reasons people gave for consuming bottled water were taste (35%) and better quality (36%).

  • Over three-quarters of the respondents (79%) perceived that a drought or water shortage in California would be very likely or somewhat likely within the next few years. Ninety-three percent of the sample anticipated that the next drought would be very serious or somewhat serious.

  • When asked to rate the importance of the need for additional water storage, 57 percent said it was "very important." Cross tab analysis shows a relationship between those who anticipate a serious drought and those who think additional water storage is very important.

  • 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."

  • Among the various possible sources of water information, water agencies and environmental organizations received the highest credibility ratings. The least believable source was celebrity endorsements.

CWAC, a non-profit organization, was launched in the late 1980s in response to the state's extended drought. 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.

The study was designed and implemented as a part of the public information and education program funded by a grant from CALFED. The public opinion survey was a telephone survey of a representative sample of approximately 600 California adults to quantitatively evaluate how residents perceive and relate to water issues.