March 23, 2007

Survey finds flood risk awareness
doesn’t spur action

Full Report

In spite of the possibility of flooding in the Sacramento area similar to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Sacramento residents remain as unprepared as they were a year ago, according to a survey by Sacramento State Professor Amy Liu and her students through the University’s Institute for Social Research. Additionally, residents are unwilling to pay higher taxes for better flood protection, even though they want local governments to limit building in floodplains and share liability with state government if a flood occurs.
Data from the 2007 Sacramento State Annual Survey of the Region shows educational efforts in the region about flood risks, as well as Gov. Schwarzenegger’s state of emergency declaration for area levees, have not translated into citizens taking meaningful action. As few as 12 percent of Sacramento residents don’t know if their home is on a flood plain. Half of the families have no evacuation plan in case of a flood, and only 18 percent carry flood insurance.
The results are almost exactly the same as those reported a year ago when the Governor had just declared the state of emergency, when 10 percent didn’t know if they were on a floodplain, 50 percent had no evacuation plan, and 19 percent had insurance.
Sacramento area residents also indicated a reluctance to pay higher taxes for better flood protection. If an election was held today, 31 percent of households in the region would vote yes to pay a higher property tax, while 62 percent would vote no. Even families who live in the flood areas were reluctant to pay—less than half would vote yes (47 percent).
Although many residents in the Sacramento region are unprepared and unwilling to pay higher taxes, an overwhelming majority do want local governments to take an active role to prevent flooding and to pay damages. Specifically, 88 percent think local governments should restrict the construction of new homes in areas without adequate flood protection, and 68 percent think local governments should encourage new homes built in flood-prone areas to have living spaces elevated above potential floodwaters.
Other findings include:

The survey was conducted before the mail ballots were distributed to property owners for the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) in March. In addition, this survey did not include non-residential property owners. The survey only reflects the general opinions of residents in the region, not the specific property owners in SAFCA assessment areas. In short, this report did not seek to measure public support for the SAFCA assessment ballots.

The survey was a computer-assisted telephone interview of 1,106 randomly selected adults from Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

The full report is available at More information is available by contacting Liu at or (916) 278-7572.