Water Bond on November Ballot

October, 2014

On Election Day, California voters will decide whether to fund a $7.5 billion bond to improve water infrastructure in the state.  Known as Proposition 1, or the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, the bill covers nearly every aspect of water imaginable.  There are funds for improving the quality of drinking water, cleaning up wastewater, managing stormwater, water recycling, preserving groundwater, desalination, providing agricultural water, and enhancing wildlife habitat.  Part of the money is reserved for economically distressed communities. The law specifically protects rivers listed under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from projects that could harm them.  

"California has been experiencing more frequent and severe droughts and is currently enduring the worst drought in 200 years. These droughts are magnifying the shortcomings of our current water infrastructure," the bill states.

One of the goals of the bill is to "help water infrastructure systems adapt to climate change, including, but not limited to, sea level rise."

The bill passed both houses of the State Legislature and was signed by Governor Brown on August 13.   If voters approve it on November 4, it will go into effect immediately as an urgency statute. It replaces an earlier law written in 2012 that would have issued $11.14 billion in bonds, which was never voted on.  Unallocated funds from other water-related funding sources, such as Proposition 84 will be reallocated to finance the water improvement programs detailed in Proposition 1. 

Urban and agricultural water suppliers that wish to benefit from Proposition 1 must have a state- approved water management plan in place.  Some projects also require a state-approved groundwater management plan.

Projects that simultaneously solve more than one type of problem, such as habitat improvement and groundwater recharge, get special consideration. Funds cannot be used for eminent domain. Public agencies can use the California Conservation Corps to perform projects.  Other nice features of the bill include a 5% limit on administrative costs, and a series of public hearings before finalizing the state's guidelines for soliciting and evaluating projects.