What People Are Thinking
During the SGVWA’s Quarterly Luncheon meeting on March 12th one of our panelists, Irma Munoz, presented the topic: An Uninformed Public.
Muñoz is President of Mujeres De La Tierra, a neighborhood driven group that strives for environmental quality and economic equity. She is also vice-chair of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. Muñoz’s presentation included a video with interviews of Los Angeles area residents in various settings where they were asked drought-related questions, including:
• Do you believe we are in a drought?
• Where do you think your water comes from?
• Do you think it is important to save water?
• Who or what would you trust as a reliable source of information about water conservation and the drought?
While answers varied, overall they revealed that members of the public are somewhat unaware of where their water comes from and are doubtful of the information they read about the drought. Muñoz stated that, for the most part, “People, regardless of where they live in the area, think that the LADWP provides their water, and the news about some water agencies has not been very flattering especially when it comes to water rates.” The drought warnings in the news, therefore, come across as an excuse to increase water rates, some respondents said.
Overall, the interviews revealed that customers do not really want to find out about the drought from the media but would rather hear from their suppliers in a very direct and honest manner. Research conducted by Muñoz and her organization strongly indicates that customers trust their water purveyor over the media and even scientific experts. This presents a great opportunity to convey a uniform message. How water agencies communicate about water and the drought in consistent terms is the key.
Other speakers at the quarterly meeting such as Dr. David Kimbrough of the City of Pasadena Water Department made the connection between the drought, diminishing aquifer levels and water quality factors that affect water rates.
SGVWA Executive Secretary Anthony Zampiello stated “Customers are more accepting of higher water rates when they realize that the drought goes beyond a matter of supply vs. demand. Water suppliers must protect public health and safety as well.”
Customers don’t necessarily draw a clear line between different agencies, either, but tend to group everyone together with those who have been in the news. Therefore, it is important to educate customers that what is being done by their water supplier is positive and that measures are being implemented to alleviate drought impacts while also addressing water quality and conservation.