Poll: Californians see drought as serious, more want limits 

Nearly every Californian sees the drought as a big problem and more now say they favor mandatory rationing, according to a survey released Thursday.

The Field Poll found 94 percent of registered California voters consider the shortage serious, and 68 percent of them find it extremely serious. By contrast, when the state had a similarly severe drought in 1977 just 51 percent saw the problem as extremely serious.

California is entering its fourth year of drought and, so far, this winter has yet to produce the rain and snow to make a major dent. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency a year ago and asked Californians to reduce consumption by 20 percent. December was the first month residents hit that threshold.

Another example that Californians recognize the seriousness of the problem: Voters last year approved a massive spending plan that invests $7.5 billion in projects to increase water storage, water recycling, treatment and cleaning up contaminated groundwater.

The poll found just 10 percent surveyed say the state's water storage and supply is adequate. More than half believe government restrictions should be relaxed to build new water storage on state parkland and forest reserves, while 38 percent disagreed.

Half of Californians also said that in dry years, the state should help farmers by easing environmental regulations that protect fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but the survey found 46 percent disagreeing.

Six in 10 Californians favor the current policy of asking residents to voluntarily cut back on water use, but one-third surveyed say they favor mandatory rationing, up 7 percentage points from last year.

Residents in different parts of California see the drought's seriousness in differing degrees. Nearly three-quarters of registered voters in San Francisco and the Central Valley's farming region told pollsters that they perceive the shortage as extremely serious, while just under two-thirds in Los Angeles County held the same belief.

The poll was conducted by telephone from Jan. 26 to Feb. 16, surveying 1,241 registered voters in California. It has a margin of error of between plus or minus 3.2 and 4.1 percentage points.

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