SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) — A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Californians’ top environmental concern is the state’s water supply and drought.
The PPIC survey says 25% of Californians named that environmental issue as the most important — Last year, 10% of residents said it was the most important, pointing instead to climate change.
“I’m heartened Californians recognize drought as a real challenge that all of us need to contend with,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot in response to the survey.
Closing in on the 2015 record high of 70%, the survey found 63% of Californians see water supply as a “big problem in their part of the state.” That majority held regardless of region, age or any other demographic. The issue, in 2021, garnered more mentions from Californians than in 2020, with 38% saying it was a big problem then.
Although climate change was not pointed to as Californian’s top concern, 80% of residents say climate change “contributed to the current drought in the state.” That majority remains even across party lines and other groups.
In regards to the effect climate change could have in the future, 89% of Californians are “very or somewhat concerned … about droughts that are more severe.” The Central Valley, 63% very concerned, trails behind the Bay Area, 68%, and Los Angeles, 66%. Regardless of demographic groups, a majority of Californians were found to be very concerned.
When asked if they are doing anything to conserve water, four in 10 Californians said “they have been doing a lot to reduce water use recently.” The same number of Californians said they were doing a lot when divided by party affiliation: 43% Democrats, 40% Republicans and 40% of independents.
The PPIC survey found the number of Californians saying they had been doing a lot increased with age, 29% ages 18-34 and 52% ages 55 and older. Although it increased with age, the PPIC says the number declines with higher income and education.
When it comes to the state and local governments, 65% say their response to the current drought is not enough. Only 29% of Californians believe the government is doing the right amount and 4% say the government is doing too much.
Californians, however, trust the state government the most when it comes to handling environmental issues: 18% federal government, 43% state and 34% local government.
For Gov. Gavin Newsom, a majority of Californians, 59%, approve of the way he is handling environmental issues. The same holds true for the California Legislature, with 53% approval.
Governor Newsom has taken some executive action, putting 50 of California’s 58 counties under a drought-related emergency proclamation.
The governor this week said the state is eyeing all water storage strategies.
“We’re looking at groundwater replenishment, water recycling, stormwater capture, conjunctive use strategies, we’re mindful of different approaches, different efficiencies,” Newsom said.
In an effort to save water, state leaders are requesting Californians decrease their typical water use by 15% but Crowfoot says future limits on water use are a possibility.
“We’re confident Californians are going to step up and reduce their water usage. We’re also clear, we aren’t going to stick our head in the sand,” Crowfoot explained. “If the drought persists and conditions worsen, the notion of mandatory restrictions for a wider swath of Californians will definitely need to be on the table.”
Administration officials have said lessons learned from the last drought have helped equip state agencies and communities for this one.
“California has navigated drought before, we’ve navigated challenging wildfire seasons and energy challenges like we’re facing,” Crowfoot told FOX40. “We will continue to enable communities to prosper and Californians to live their lives. But increasingly, we just need to work together to get through this challenging period.”
Most residents, 43%, said it was very important for them to see California act as a leader around the world when it comes to fighting climate change. Just about the same number, 41%, believe more jobs could come from California’s efforts to reduce climate change.