The San Diego County Water Authority released the results of a public opinion poll yesterday that shows 63 percent of respondents supporting the use of recycled sewage to boost drinking water supplies. That’s up from 28 percent in 2005.

But more of the public (17.9 percent) sees seawater desalination as the most critical thing the authority could do to secure water supplies than those who believe the answer is using recycled water (3.7 percent).

The survey has other interesting findings. Almost all of the 700 adults surveyed in the authority’s service area are aware that the region faces a water shortage. What’s revealing is the reasons why they think we’re short.

Nearly 31 percent blamed a lack of rain in San Diego — even though the region only gets a tiny sliver of its water from local sources. Another 29.6 percent blamed development. And 11 percent blamed water waste and golf courses. And 8 percent said climate change.

But the two most frequently cited reasons by local water managers earned barely a mention. Less than 1 percent attributed it to court-ordered cutbacks. Less than 2 percent said a lack of snowfall in the mountains.

Just 5 percent said less water in rivers than expected.

The poll reveals some of the challenges that local water agencies face in getting residents to conserve water. The region uses between 50-60 percent of its water outdoors. Water authority officials say outdoor conservation will be vital to reduce per-capita consumption.

But asked how they’d cut back if required, more residents said they’d save water by cutting indoors than outdoors. Nearly a third said they’d take shorter showers and only wash full loads of dishes and laundry. Twenty-one percent said they’d save outdoors — cutting irrigation, installing artificial turf and replacing grass with drought-tolerant plants.


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