Poll Finds Drought Still on Californians’ Minds

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – With California’s major reservoirs rising thanks to a stream of potent El Nino storms, residents remain worried about the state’s historic drought and are dedicated to cutting water use.
     A majority of California registered voters are concerned about potential water shortages with 62 percent viewing the state’s water situation as “extremely serious” according to a Field Poll released Thursday. Recent wet weather may have changed some voters’ position, since 76 percent viewed the drought as extremely serious in an October 2015 poll.
     In the wake of an El Nino-driven winter that brought healthy amounts of rain and snow to Northern California for the first time in five years, Californians still feel it is vital to continue letting lawns turn brown and slashing indoor water use even after the drought is over.
     Nearly 75 percent of respondents said it’s “very important” for residents to continue reducing water usage inside and outside their homes, while 52 percent feel it’s important for homeowners to upgrade toilets and appliances to more water-efficient models.
     The state is slowly creeping out of an extended drought that prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to issue the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions in April 2015.
     Since June, cities and water suppliers have been required slash urban water use by 25 percent combined or face penalties. Drought regulators have also increased rebate programs for Californians willing to replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping or buy water-efficient toilets.
     The rebates are popular with California voters according to the poll, as 59 percent said the programs are very important while 29 percent consider them somewhat important.
     The drought measures appear to be changing voters’ long-term water usage habits as well, with 86 percent saying they will use less water once the drought is over.
     This is the fifth Field Poll focused on California’s drought since April 2014, with each survey finding that Northern Californians are the most concerned about the state’s water shortage. The latest poll found 60 percent of Southern California respondents consider the state’s shortage “extremely serious,” compared to 68 percent of voters up north.
     Thursday’s poll comes as scientists are predicting that not only is El Nino winding down, but that its historically drier companion La Nina is strengthening. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center issued a formal watch for a likely La Nina arrival this fall.
     NOAA scientists are predicting a 71 percent chance of La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean by November, up from 57 percent last month. They cautioned that it’s still early and that they should have a clearer picture of how strong the La Nina pattern might be by summer.
     La Nina events typically occur after an El Nino and are the result of shifting trade winds and cooling surface temperatures along the equator. California rainfall totals were below average in most of the 20 La Nina events measured since 1950.
     While Californians had hopes of a powerful El Nino dragging the state out of its extended drought this winter, Oregon and Washington received the brunt of the storms. Rainfall was only near normal in most of Northern California and actually below average in Southern California.
     After five years of drought, 55 percent of voters answered that they have been affected by California’s current water shortage a “great deal/somewhat.”

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