HOUSTON -- An overwhelming 90 percent of likely Houston voters have taken action to limit their use of water, according to a survey conducted for KHOU 11 News and KUHF - Houston Public Radio.
The poll indicates that more than half of them -- 58 percent -- say they've limited the number of days they water their lawns.
Mayor Annise Parker imposed lawn watering in response to the unprecedented drought, which lowered levels in lakes that supply much of the city's water. Houstonians are allowed to water their lawns with sprinklers only two days a week and only during off-peak hours.
The survey also indicates a substantial number of Houstonians have respected the mayor's request to conserve water when they bathe, with 11 percent saying they're taking shorter showers.
"I might note here that that number grows to almost 30 percent of people who rent, since washing their cars and watering their lawns may not be something they do as frequently as homeowners," said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist who supervised the poll. "But they can take shorter showers. So at least voters are telling us they're trying."
Another 5 percent of surveyed voters say they're washing their cars less often.
The survey also indicates a lot of Houstonians are upset with the city's efforts to repair an unprecedented outbreak of water main leaks. More than a quarter of the surveyed voters -- 28 percent -- say the city's done a poor job of fixing the leaks. Another 36 percent rate the city's response as only adequate.
However, more than half the surveyed voters give the city high marks for its response to the crisis, with 24 percent calling the city's response "good" and 28 percent rating it "excellent."
That disparity may be due to the fact that survey results seem to vary by neighborhood. About 70 percent of surveyed voters in largely African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods rate the city's performance as "poor." That echoes sentiments voiced in city council meetings, where residents of historically black and Hispanic neighborhoods have complained their water main repairs are often neglected for leaks in higher-income areas of the city.
"Homeowners and renters have a decidedly different view," Stein said. "The homeowner thinks the city is doing a good job, but the renter thinks the city is doing a poor job. That may reflect where, in fact, water mains are being fixed."
The telephone survey was conducted between October 6 and Oct. 16. Pollsters questioned 748 Houstonians who said they'll probably vote in next month's city elections. The margin of error is 3.6 percent.