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Poll: Californians cutting water use amid severe drought conditions

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POSTED March 26, 2014 7:07 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With the state in the grip of a severe drought, most Californians are getting anxious over dwindling water supplies and making an effort not to waste a drop, a poll found Wednesday.

A majority of adults in every region of the state considers water supplies a “big problem,” including two of three residents in the Central Valley farming belt, according to the statewide survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“The percentage of Californians saying that water supply is a big problem in their region has reached a new high,” pollster Mark Baldassare said in a statement. “Nearly all state residents say that they are doing something to reduce water use as a response to this historic drought.”

California is suffering through a string of several relatively dry winters, which are typically expected to replenish mountain snow and groundwater. Gov. Jerry Brown in January declared a drought emergency, and some communities are rationing water. Farmland is being left fallow, and court rulings have ordered that more water be released from reservoirs to sustain fish species in Northern California’s delta.

According to the poll, two of three adults consider water supply a big problem or somewhat of a problem. One in four wasn’t worried. But just about everyone — 92 percent — said they are trying to conserve.

Fifty percent of likely voters said they would vote in favor of $11 billion in long-term loans, now being considered in the Legislature, to develop state water projects. About one in three said they would oppose the water bonds in an election.

Just over half of adults said passing a water bond for new projects is “very important,” the survey found.

The poll also provided fresh evidence that Brown’s signature project, a $68 billion high-speed train, continues to struggle for public support. Engineering and excavation work has started, but the project has encountered numerous delays and court challenges.

Among likely voters, 50 percent said they opposed building the bullet train, while 45 percent supported it. Those figures flipped when the sample used was all adults — 53 percent were in support, while 42 percent were opposed.

The poll also found:

uMost Californians, 56 percent, said the country is generally going in the wrong direction, compared with 39 percent who believe it’s headed in the right direction.

—There’s no consensus on legalizing marijuana for recreational use. About half of adults, 49 percent, said pot should be legal, while 47 percent said lighting up should be against the law. Most blacks and whites favor legalization, while most Latinos oppose it. Asians are roughly split.

—Most Californians, 73 percent, said the gap between the nation’s rich and poor is getting larger, and nearly two of three adults want the government to do more to reverse the trend.

—Even in a state known for its high tax rates, half of adults said the state and local tax system is at least moderately fair. However, 60 percent said they pay at least somewhat more than they should.

The telephone survey of 1,702 adults, conducted March 11-18, has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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