The State Water Resources Control Board recently reported results of the nine-month statewide water conservation effort that Governor Brown announced last April. With an overall reduction of 23.9 percent compared to the same nine months in 2013 and 2014, the state came up just short of its 25 percent target. Monthly water savings have been below 25 percent in each month since October. Notably, in February—the final month of reporting under the governor’s water savings mandate—the statewide reduction was just 12 percent. This suggests a decreased sense of urgency about the drought. The PPIC Statewide Survey has found additional evidence that Californians’ sense of urgency has declined.
In our March 2015 survey—before the conservation effort was announced—two-thirds of Californians said people in their area were not doing enough to respond to the drought. In surveys since the mandatory water reduction was implemented in June 2015, only half have expressed this view. In each region of the state today, fewer say not enough is being done than said so last March—including the Central Valley, where we’ve seen a 21 point decline in the share saying “not enough.”
Following the wet winter months and a slowdown of statewide water savings, fewer Californians are saying that the supply of water in their part of California is a big problem. In our March survey, 57 percent expressed this concern—but that’s down from 70 percent last September and 66 percent in March 2015.
We have also seen fewer Californians name water and drought as the most important issue facing the state. Last month, 20 percent of Californians said water and drought were most important. That is down from a peak of 39 percent in May 2015 and similar to the responses we heard in March 2015 (23%).
As spring begins and policymakers consider the next steps for water use reduction, Californians’ views on the drought will continue to be an important factor in statewide water conservation efforts.