Dunno Much about Hydrology: Californians Clueless about Delta’s Role in Their Water

Most respondents statewide said they knew nothing about the Delta or hadn’t heard of it

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a key to the water supply for 25 million Caliornians.

Quick: What is the Sacramento Delta?

Not where. What. According to a new statewide poll commissioned by Southern California water interests, three out of four surveyed could not answer that question correctly…or at all. This despite the fact that the maze of channels around the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin River is a crucial cog in the water supply of 25 million Californians and the subject of intense, ongoing political and legal skirmishes.

According to Probolsky Research, which conducted the survey, 78% of respondents statewide said they either knew nothing about the Delta or hadn’t heard of it. About four percent knew that it plays a role in supporting endangered fish species, but only 2.3% cited the Delta as a “source of water.” (The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.7%). Water from California’s northern rivers is funneled from the Delta to serve thirsty customers as far south as San Diego.

At least one recorded response was that the Delta is “the oil line from Canada to the United States,” an apparent confusion with the highly publicized Keystone XL pipeline proposal. Despite the sketchy notions that Californians appear to have about the Delta, a significant majority in the survey (60.4%) said they support or were leaning in favor of the multi-billion-dollar bond for water improvements set to appear on the statewide ballot in November. About a third said they would “definitely vote yes” were the election held today.

The survey was released by the Southern California Water Committee, a self-described “public education partnership” looking out for the Southland’s stake in the nascent Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

In the same survey, the environment scored a meager three percent when respondents were asked to name the “most important issue facing your community.” Jobs (53.5%), public safety (14.3), government (13.5) and education (10.7) were the only issues cited by more than ten percent of respondents.

  • Anonymous

    The “survey” or poll mentioned in the latter part of this story (relating to the water bond) was not commissioned by the Southern California Water Committee.  It was commissioned and paid for by ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies).  It was a classic “push poll”, meaning the questions were loaded or slanted to both get the results the sponsor wanted and to influence the participants thinking in the direction of the sponsor.  The prospects of the $11.14 billion general obligation bond passing are dim at best.  People are too smart to allow their taxes go to projects that benefit only a few large agricultural and real estate development corporations.

    • http://blogs.kqed.org/climatewatch Craig Miller, KQED

      Interesting–and curious, since the survey results on the Delta and water bond are consolidated and the SCWC logo appears right on the poll. There is no indication anywhere of ACWA involvement. The news release says it was “released by California public opinion research firm Probolsky Research at the Southern California Water Committee’s January 27 Quarterly Meeting.” Since SCWC _released_ the survey, I’ve revised the post to clarify that.
      The general question on the water bond, which appears on p. 36, seems pretty straightforward to me. I’d be interested in seeing examples from the poll that you see as “slanted” and we’ll look into the “commissioning.” Thanks for the note.

  • Bussling

    I am not surprised that few in California know about the Delta. Most Californians today know more about Kim Kardasian than they know about any part of the infrastructure they rely on for their existence. But hey who cares – we can just go to Taco Bell if we want something to drink – what’s the problem?