Many in Coachella Valley say they’re trying to save water, survey finds

July 30th, 2013 | by Ian James | Comments

A large majority of residents in the Coachella Valley say they are concerned about water and actively trying to conserve, but very few report using efficient sprinklers or irrigation systems in their yards. A survey carried out for the valley’s water agencies aimed to gauge public attitudes and knowledge about water conservation, and the results provide a snapshot of what people are and aren’t doing to try to save water.

The results released Tuesday show that 94 percent of those questioned said they view saving water as important, and that nearly nine out of 10 people said they’re working to conserve. About two-thirds of those who participated in the telephone survey said they think they can do more to save water.

The survey, which was carried out from May 23-25 by the Newport Beach-based polling firm Probolsky Research, questioned 432 water customers selected at random across the Coachella Valley. It had an error margin of 4.8 percentage points.

The poll was paid for a state grant and cost $12,500 to complete. It was commissioned by the Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group, a collaborative effort of the valley’s five water agencies. The agencies are using the poll while planning efforts to promote water conservation.

Katie Ruark, a spokeswoman for the Desert Water Agency, said the timing of the survey had nothing to do with a lawsuit filed against two water agencies earlier in May by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. She said the survey had been planned well before the lawsuit.

The tribe has accused the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District of mismanaging water supplies and allowing groundwater to be depleted and degraded. The water agencies deny those accusations and defend their efforts, which include a regional water management plan.

The poll found that 55 percent said they view their water agency favorably, while about 7 percent expressed an unfavorable opinion. Others said they had no opinion, were unsure, or declined to answer.

The survey included a detailed question about the types of water saving devices people have. While 62 percent said they have low-flow or water saving shower heads, only 2 percent to 4 percent said they had efficient sprinklers or irrigation systems.

The results provide information about current water conservation approaches as well as areas where people could do more, Ruark said. “We want to help them identify other ways to save water, mostly outside.”

Those who participated in the survey weren’t asked about their knowledge of where the valley’s water comes from (predominantly imported water from the drought-stressed Colorado River). But people appeared slightly more worried about water in the long-term as compared to the short-term, with 68 percent saying they are concerned about water in the next 25 years, up from nearly 62 percent who express concern about water in the next five years.

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