| SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 6
SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 6 As California
struggles through its third year of drought, nearly half of
state residents said they would be willing to pay higher water
bills to ensure a more stable supply, a new poll showed on
The poll, released by the University of Southern California
and the Los Angeles Times, comes as lawmakers in the most
populous U.S. state are fighting over ways to ease the drought's
impact. Some have called for increased spending to build
reservoirs and underground storage, while others have stressed
Some 46 percent told the pollsters they would be willing to
pay higher water bills to shore up supply, slightly more than
the 42 percent who said they would not. But Californians stopped
short of being willing to spend taxpayer money: 51 percent said
the state should not spend taxpayer dollars to improve storage
and delivery systems, compared to 36 percent who were in favor.
The drought is expected to cost thousands of farm jobs and
cause 400,000 acres of cropland to be fallowed.
Governor Jerry Brown declared an emergency in January. He
requested voluntary conservation, funneled millions of dollars
to farmers and municipalities and provided funds to help idled
The state has temporarily eased protections for some
endangered fish in order to allow more water to be pumped from
the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, prompting
concern from environmentalists who urge conservation instead.
Californians will vote in November on a measure to issue
billions in bonds to shore up the state's supply, but lawmakers
are debating which projects to fund.
Brown's administration is also pushing a $15 billion plan to
send water through a pair of tunnels that would divert water
from the Sacramento River.
Nearly all of those polled, about 89 percent, said the
drought was a crisis or a major problem, but most said it had
not had a major impact on their lives.
About two-thirds of those surveyed said they had cut back on
watering their lawns, and 87 percent said they had changed their
personal habits, including taking shorter showers and flushing
the toilet more sparingly.
Asked the causes of related problems with the state's water
supply, 69 percent blamed old delivery systems and not enough
water storage. About 67 percent said climate change was also to
blame, and 53 percent cited agricultural use of water.
The telephone survey of 1511 registered voters was conducted
May 21-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein)