Poll: Two-thirds of Californians worry about water supply, wildfires

Stevens Creek Reservoir near Cupertino is one of the reservoirs that supplies water to Santa Clara County. It is only 17% full. This photo was shot on June 7, near the beginning of the long dry season. Photo by Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group

Nearly two-thirds of state residents are concerned about the water supply in their region and the increase of wildfires and drought due to climate change, according to polling data released Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

PPIC’s 21st annual environmental survey polled 1,569 state residents, including 937 likely voters, earlier this month on environmental issues and concerns. The survey found that one-quarter of participants said water supply and the state’s ongoing drought are their top environmental concerns, followed by 17 percent saying wildfires, 13 percent saying climate change and 6 percent saying air pollution.

Water supply was also a concern for a majority of survey participants in each area of the state — the central valley, Inland Empire, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

However, just under 60 percent of those polled in Southern California said their region’s water supply was a big problem, while 67 percent of those in the central valley and 70 percent of those in the Bay Area said it was a big problem.

“It’s also the most important issue for Democrats and independents while Republicans are equally likely to say the drought or wildfires are the biggest issue,” said Rachel Lawler, a survey analyst with the PPIC.

At least 69 percent of participants in each geographic region said they’ve taken steps to reduce their water use to some extent, with 90 percent of Bay Area participants saying they’ve done so.

The survey found that 68 percent of all adults said the state is already dealing with the effects of climate change, including 82 percent of Democratic respondents. Just 44 percent of Republicans, however, said the same and 20 percent of Republican respondents believe the state will never feel the effects of climate change, Lawler said.

A firefighting helicopter flies away after dropping water over a brush fire scorching at least 100 acres in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles on May 15, 2021. Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu, AP Photo

“I think Republicans in California are different than, maybe, Republicans in other states or nationwide, but as far as that goes, I think a majority across the notion that it is happening, just to some different degrees,” she said.

Republican survey participants were also far less likely than Democrats and independents to support three of the state’s policies to combat climate change: banning new fracking permits by 2024, banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and conserving 30 percent of land and water by 2030. Only the land and water conservation received majority support from Republican respondents at 51 percent, while 93 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents and 76 percent of all adults said they supported it.

Democrats were the only partisan group with majority support for the gas-powered vehicle ban, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last fall. The survey found that 69 percent of Democratic respondents supported the policy while 14 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of independents and 49 percent of all adults supported the ban.

A majority of respondents said they supported the ways in which both Newsom and President Joe Biden are handling environmental issues, with 59 percent approving of Newsom and 61 percent approving Biden.

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