April 26, 2013
A recent survey of Texas citizens revealed that, contrary to some earlier predictions, Texans are very interested in, and concerned about, the quality and quantity of water in the Lone Star State. Respondents report being concerned about the increasing number and severity of droughts in Texas and about the availability of enough water to serve all the State’s water needs.
The survey was led by Dr. Arnold Vedlitz, Director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy (ISTPP) in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. The project and survey instrument were designed by him and other researchers at ISTPP. The research effort was supported by the Texas Sea Grant Program, the TAMU Vice President for Research, and ISTPP in the Bush School. The survey was conducted by the respected online polling company, GfK in February and March of this year, so the results are scientifically sound and very up to date.
“This survey revealed that Texans are very worried about our state’s diminishing water resources, and that they are willing to see conservation methods put in place,” Vedlitz said. “They are also concerned about how our water resources are managed and used,” he added. “Dr. Pamela Plotkin, Director of the Texas Sea Grant Program and a co-sponsor of the survey commented that “One of the things I find most interesting and important in this survey is how strongly Texas citizens feel about keeping water resources available for our natural environmental assets like our bays and estuaries and other environmental life-giving assets so important to our State’s health, natural beauty and economy.”
Overall, water issues ranked fifth among a list of ten major issues facing the country, after government spending, health care, the economy, and national security. Some 55 percent said they had experienced drought in their region in the past year, and of those who had experienced drought, over 95 percent said those droughts are as frequent or more frequent and as severe or more severe than ever. And while most believe that short-term changes in annual rainfall are a major cause of water shortages, they also cited overuse and inadequate management of water resources, increased demand, and climate change as additional, important factors affecting drought. Respondents also believe that over the next five years diminishing water resources will result in more conflicts over water use, higher water costs, greater fire danger, increased food prices, a loss of recreational opportunities, and damage to plant and animal species.
When asked about how they might personally act to alleviate water shortages, a majority stated they were already reducing their water usage by watering lawns less, washing their cars less frequently, or using appliances more efficiently. Texans seem ready to accept mandatory lawn watering restrictions if that is necessary to preserve important water resources for other key agricultural, economic, and quality of life issues.
A number of possible policy options to improve water availability for now and the future received strong support, including water-related infrastructure improvements (such as those now being considered by the Texas Legislature) (64%), education and public relations campaigns to encourage greater voluntary conservation (67%), tax incentives and tax cuts to encourage water conservation (67%), and protecting some water resources for environmental needs (71%).
Vedlitz concludes, “Policy makers need to be aware of the extent of the public’s concern about water issues and their willingness to support a variety of measures to help guarantee the security of the Texas’ water supply now and in the future.”