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Parched Californians back cuts in water use

The dry bed of Ivanpah Lake in San Barnardino County, which had been filled by the 2004-05 rains. (Photo: Ed Berlen)

The latest multiethnic Field Poll surveyed 1,664 California adults by telephone in six languages to assess the public’s views about the state’s ongoing drought. The following are the survey’s topline findings:

–Nearly nine in ten residents (89%) believe the current water shortage is serious, and two in three (66%) term it extremely serious. This is a significantly higher level of concern than found by The Field Poll during the state’s last serious drought in 1977.

–By a nearly three-to-one margin (65% to 23%) Californians support Governor Jerry Brown’s call to require urban water districts to reduce their water use by an average of 25% statewide. Support for the Governor’s plan is broad-based and bipartisan, and spans all major subgroups of the state’s adult population.

–However, greater than four in ten of the state’s homeowners (44%) say they would find it difficult to reduce their household’s own water use if asked to do so by their local water district. The proportion saying this increases to 48% among high-income homeowners, who are the biggest per capita residential consumers of water.

–Seven in ten homeowners (70%) also say that it would be a serious problem for them if their local water district increased their water bill by 15% or 25%. This includes 30% who say this would be a very serious problem for them and 40% who say it would be somewhat serious. Just 27% say this would not cause them a serious problem. Upper income homeowners are much less sensitive to rate hikes of this magnitude.
Among homeowners with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more, just 18% say increasing their water bill by this amount would be a very serious problem for them, while 44% say this would not cause a serious problem for them.

–A 57% majority of Californians believes that the state’s agricultural users can reduce the amount of water they use by changing crops and using water more efficiently without creating real hardships. This is greater than twice the proportion (26%) who believe they cannot. The Field Poll #2503 Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Page 2 Nearly all Californians describe the state’s water situation as serious.

Nearly all Californians describe the state’s water situation as serious
Nine in ten Californians (89%) believe the state’s current water situation is serious, 67% of whom say it is extremely serious. This view is widely shared by residents across all regions and major demographic subgroups of the state, although Democrats and upper income Californians are somewhat more likely to describe the situation as extremely serious. The current findings are similar to public sentiments expressed in a Field Poll three months ago, but represent a higher level of concern than last year, during the early stages of the current drought, or in March 1977, when the state was also in the midst of a serious drought.

Nine in ten Californians (89%) believe the state’s current water situation is serious, 67% of whom say it is extremely serious. This view is widely shared by residents across all regions and major demographic subgroups of the state, although Democrats and upper income Californians are
somewhat more likely to describe the situation as extremely serious.

The current findings are similar to public sentiments expressed in a Field Poll three months ago, but represent a higher level of concern than last year, during the early stages of the current drought, or in March 1977, when the state was also in the midst of a serious drought.

Governor’s urban water reduction plan broadly supported
Two in three Californians (65%) support the Governor’s call to require urban water districts to reduce their water use by an average of 25% or be subject to a fine. Just 23% of the state’s adults are opposed, while 12% have no opinion.

There are only modest differences in public opinion about this across the major subgroups of the adult population, with large majorities in favor.

The latest poll, with the complete text, tables and methodology can be found here.

Ed’s Note: The telephone survey was completed April 23-May 16, 2015 among a random sample of 1,664 California adults, including 752 homeowners. The survey was administered in six languages and dialects – English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean, depending on the preference of the respondent.


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