After the two driest consecutive years in much of California in nearly half a century, reservoir levels are falling. Lawns are brown. Water restrictions are increasing. And Californians are getting worried.
According to a new poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-partisan research organization in San Francisco, to name the environmental issue they are most concerned about, more California residents are citing water shortages and droughts.
Overall, 25% of California adults cite water shortages and droughts as the most important environmental issues the state currently faces. Not far behind, 17% cite veld fires, followed by 13% citing climate change and 6% citing air pollution. A year ago, only 10% of water and drought mentioned the biggest challenge for the environment.
“The drought has returned with great force in California,” said Mark Baldassare, director of the PPIC Statewide Survey. ‘We’ve seen a big change in just one year in terms of how many people say it’s a big problem. There can be no escape anywhere in California. ‘
A year ago in the same poll, only 38% of California residents said water shortages are a major problem in the part of the state where they live. Now 65% say so, with some differences between north and south – 70% in the Bay Area versus 60% in Los Angeles.
“Most people living in large metropolitan areas are not in trouble yet,” said Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. “They are on the waking level. Not the level of the course of the water. But it could come next year if it does not rain much this winter. ”
The poll also showed widespread support for the expansion of renewable energy.
A staggering 80% said they think the development of renewable energy sources – such as wind and solar – should take precedence over the expansion of oil, coal and natural gas. According to parties, 93% of Democrats, 78% of independents and 56% of Republicans preferred renewable energy over the development of fossil fuels.
And while 64% of Californians preferred a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or ‘hydrofracking’, a controversial method of producing oil and gas by breaking underground rocks with water and chemicals under pressure, by 2024 California was 49-49 % equally divided whether they support the government Gavin Newsom’s executive order last year to ban the sale of new fuel cars and passenger trucks by 2035.
“Relatively few people have made the transition to electric vehicles,” Baldassare said. “People get to know people who have, and what some of the options are. But there is still a lot that people feel they need to learn. ”
The increasing drought that has hit California and other Western states has dominated the survey, which was conducted on July 6 to 14 among 1,569 adults in California in English and Spanish.
How bad is that?
In the Northern Sierra, California’s main watershed because it normally fills the state’s most important reservoirs, the last two years have been the second driest period in two years since records began in 1921, yielding only 52% of normal precipitation. has. The only time in the last 100 years when it was drier was during the famous 1975-77 drought.
Meanwhile, San Jose experienced its driest year in 128 years of record keeping and received only 5.33 inches of rain from July 1 to June 30 – about the same amount of rain that Las Vegas or Palm Springs receives in a typical year.
Similarly, San Francisco saw the third driest year since the 1849 Gold Rush. Southern California has fared somewhat better: over the past two years in Los Angeles, 73% of normal rainfall has led. And San Diego has reached 93% of its historical average over the past two years.
As a result, 85% of California’s extreme droughts are now the American drought monitor, a weekly report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NOAA and the University of Nebraska. Large reservoirs are at low levels. And fire danger is very high.
Scientists say that although droughts and fires have been part of the state’s history for thousands of years, the warming climate is making them more intense. Last year, a record 4.3 million acres – one in every 24 acres of land in California – burned.
The poll found that 80% of Californians agree, saying climate change has contributed to the drought, while 78% said wildfires have worsened. It forms the view of what should be allowed on the famous coast of the state. Overall, 72% said they are against new oil drilling abroad, but 81% said they support the construction of wind turbines abroad and 68% support for desalination projects for the ocean.
“For Californians, climate change is not an abstract concept,” Baldassare said. “It’s real. It’s happening now.”