Drought Rallies Support for California Water Projects

A pipe leading to the Peters Dam spillway in Marin County, photographed in March, 2014. (Mark Andrew Boyer/KQED)
A pipe leading to the Peters Dam spillway in Marin County, photographed in March, 2014. (Mark Andrew Boyer/KQED)

Californians continue to see the ongoing drought as a priority -- and that may be driving a willingness to spend billions on securing their future water supplies.

According to the latest polling from the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, water and the drought clock in as the second most pressing issue among those polled, eclipsed only by jobs and the economy. Nearly nine-in-ten of the poll's respondents said they considered water supply to be a "problem," with almost two-thirds (65 percent) saying they consider it a “big problem.”

Given that level of urgency, it seems like no surprise that, when asked how they’ll vote for the $7.5 billion package of water measures now on the ballot as Proposition 1, 58 percent said "yes." That’s enough to pass it and nearly double the proportion (29 percent) that said they planned to vote “no.” Support was consistent across the state, though highest in the Bay Area and Inland Empire.

It may also not be surprising, considering that a "No on 1" campaign has yet to emerge with enough money behind it for media saturation. There is an organized opposition to Prop 1, largely a coalition of Delta and fishing interests.

Detractors say it would be spending too much money for too little water. Some Delta groups have opposed the bond, claiming that it would hasten realization of Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two cavernous tunnels to transport Sacramento River water across the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Proponents of the bond measure say that it's written to be "tunnels-neutral."

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This willingness to pony up for water improvements seems to spill over to the local level. More than 7-in-10 respondents to the PPIC poll said that hypothetically, they'd also support local bond measures for projects that would help keep the water flowing. (Take note, local water agencies.)

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