A survey commissioned by the California Water Foundation, a group pushing for water-conservation policies statewide, claimed on June 17 that the drought is one of the most pressing issues on the minds of voters. A local group with similar aims, San Diego Coastkeeper, is using the findings to renew calls for change to San Diego's water-use policies.
According to the foundation's findings, 85 percent of 800 voters randomly surveyed said current drought conditions are "extremely serious" or "very serious." By comparison, the Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates firm says that only 65 percent of respondents ranked jobs and the economy as highly; and just 46 percent said they were as concerned about their tax rates.
"As much as California voters express intense concern about current drought conditions, they do not see the current drought as an isolated or short-term problem," the study says. "Nearly four in five [79 percent] feel ongoing water shortages will persist even in times of normal rainfall; and over three in five [64 percent] believe droughts are the 'new normal' in California."
Coastkeeper is using this "new normal" — which also includes, the group believes, significant sea-level rise in coming years — to push for changes.
"We’re encouraged to hear that Californians recognize that our water-supply problems are long term and that they favor long-term solutions — it’s time for decision-makers to listen and take action," says Travis Pritchard, program manager at Coastkeeper.
The group is specifically pushing the city to move forward on an aggressive expansion of its water-recycling facilities, which currently supply about 4 percent of the city's water; that number is expected to grow to 6 percent by 2020.
Coastkeeper says instead the program could be expanded to meet about 40 percent of overall water demand. However, Coastkeeper believes the San Diego County Water Authority relies too much on imported water from increasingly water-poor regions; and construction of massive coastal desalination plants impede progress on what detractors label "toilet to tap" initiatives.