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New Survey Reveals Californians’ Overwhelming Support for Recycled Water as a Long-Term Drought Solution

Date: March 14, 2016

drought_infographic2The severity and impact of the drought remains top-of-mind among Californians. They are eager for long-term solutions that can help the state to achieve a water-secure future. California residents are overwhelmingly supportive of using treated wastewater, or recycled water, in their everyday lives, according to a statewide survey released March 14 by Xylem Inc. The survey found that 76 percent of respondents believe recycled water should be used as a long-term solution for managing water resources, regardless of whether or not a water shortage continues.

Nearly half, or 49 percent of respondents, are very supportive of using recycled water as an additional local water supply and another 38 percent are somewhat supportive. The survey defined recycled water as former wastewater that has been treated and purified so that it can be reused for drinking purposes. Of survey respondents, 42 percent are very willing to use recycled water in their everyday lives and an additional 41 percent are somewhat willing. These findings confirm that there is a significant number of Californians who support the use of recycled water.

“We conducted this survey in an effort to better understand public perception about recycled water, and are very encouraged by the findings,” said Joseph Vesey, Xylem Senior Vice President who leads the Company’s North American commercial business. “With overwhelming support from the public, California is well-positioned to lead the U.S. in accelerating the availability and acceptance of recycled water. The state has the opportunity to champion a flexible framework that recognizes the unique needs of local communities as they work to establish water resource strategies that include sustainable solutions, such as recycled water.”

According to the findings, 89 percent of residents are more willing to use recycled water after reading an educational statement explaining the treatment processes that recycled wastewater undergoes to become safe and drinkable again. Further, 88 percent agree that seeing a demonstration of the water purification process would make them more comfortable using and drinking recycled water. These findings suggest that education is a key component in gaining even stronger support for recycled water across the state.

Californians do not view the use of recycled water as a short-term fix to the state’s five-year drought. Eighty-eight percent of California residents agree that even if El Niño brings increased rainfall to California, the state should continue to invest in the use of recycled water for drinking purposes. In fact, if El Niño brings the expected rainfall to California, only 12 percent of respondents say it would cause them to be less concerned about saving water.

The survey also found that terminology plays a role in the level of public acceptance for the use of recycled water. When reused water was referred to as “purified water,” respondents were more likely to be supportive (90 percent) of it as an additional local water supply than when the term “recycled water” (87 percent) or “reclaimed water” (82 percent) was used.

About the Poll

Xylem Inc. commissioned research firm Edelman Intelligence to conduct an online survey with a total of 3,000 randomly selected California voters from January 14-30, 2016. Each term (recycled water, purified water and reclaimed water) term was evaluated by approximately 1,000 randomly sampled voters. The margin of error for 1,000 respondents is +/- 3.1 percent.

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