California voters overwhelmingly see the state's ongoing water shortage as a serious problem, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.
Nearly 95 percent consider the shortage serious, and of those 68 percent find it extremely serious, according to the poll. Nearly three-quarters of people in San Francisco perceive the shortage as extremely serious, compared to just under two-thirds in Los Angeles County, according to the poll.
California is entering its fourth year of drought with lower than normal rain and snow falling on the state that leads the nation in agriculture production. Below-average snowfall in the Sierra Nevada range has been a consistent problem, leaving the state's major reservoirs at critically low levels.
Springtime water runoff from the mountains' melting snow provides an estimated 25 million Californians with water.
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At the University of California-Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Laboratory site near Donner Summit, there is only about 1 foot of snow on the ground. That's lower for late February than all of the dry winters in the last 70 years, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report.
Snow depth at the Donner Summit site, where the usual maximum snow depth is around 12 feet, has not exceeded 3 feet this winter.
As for what to do about the problem, the poll said more than half of those asked believe government restrictions on building new water storage should be relaxed; 38 percent disagree. In January 2014 Gov. Jerry Brown called on Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. It's a goal the state has had trouble meeting on a consistent monthly basis.
The poll also said that in 1977 amid another long-term drought about half of Californian voters felt the situation was extremely serious.
Scattered showers were reported in California earlier this week, but the state needs a series of significant storms packing large amounts of snow to gain a drought relief foothold. Exceptional drought conditions improved in Kern and adjacent Tulare counties , according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.
"But otherwise the Golden State remained locked in a yearslong drought," according to the Drought Monitor statement.
More than 41 percent of California remains under exceptional drought, the most severe category listed by the Drought Monitor. More than 93 percent of California is under severe drought this week.