The drought has moved to the top of Californians' worry list. And that's a first.
Asked to name the "most important issue" facing the state, 26 percent of respondents to a statewide survey earlier this month said "water" and "drought." That's a statistical tie with those who said "jobs" and "the economy" (29 percent), the first time that's happened since 1998, when the Public Policy Institute of California started asking the question.
"That's an incredible number," says Mark Baldassare, who directs the poll. And he says he thinks it's more than a fleeting response to the crisis of the moment.
"It's been the duration of this [three-year] drought and the fact that it's affected every corner of the state, that's made people realize that it's not a short-term issue; it's a long-term issue," he says. "I think there's a fundamental shift going on."
Baldassare says the water issue had been "nowhere" on residents' radar in most previous polls. Just 7 percent of respondents mentioned it as recently as January of this year, before creeping up to 24 percent in September.