by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & wo focus groups conducted for Washington's Department of Ecology show a majority of the 30 Spokane city residents asked believe in the need to conserve water, but there's some disagreement about whether they'd pay more money to achieve that goal.
The first group consisted of 17 people who were 45 or older. All but one said conserving water is very important to Spokane's future. Ten said they'd be willing to shell out $1 to $5 more per month to help the city reclaim wastewater to sprinkle onto golf courses, parks and school fields, reducing the need to pull water from the aquifer. Two respondents said they wouldn't pay anything.
The second group consisted of 13 people ages 25 to 44. Seven of those thought water conservation is important and five said they would be willing to pay extra for reclaimed water.
"It's encouraging in that a lot of people feel conservation is important and many are already doing something at home to conserve," says Brook Beeler, an education specialist for Ecology. "But there's room to grow. We were interested in seeing what people know about conservation and where are the barriers."
One of those barriers is the lack of knowledge about reclaimed water, which is clean enough for most uses, but not clean enough to drink safely. Respondents in the second group worried about the health of children who were exposed to the treated water and how reclaimed water would affect their grass or gardens. Many of those questioned wanted to know more.
Beeler says the community group involved in developing the focus group questions will analyze the results and use them to create future media campaigns.
Water conservation and reclamation will become more prominent in the future. Spokane County and city are investigating whether to put treated wastewater somewhere other than the Spokane River to improve the quality of the river water. The county funded five pilot water conservation projects this summer, and the city is sprinkling reclaimed water on a test plot next to Downriver Golf Course.