california drought and water bond issue

Kate Poole, Senior Attorney, San Francisco

A broad array of stakeholders and interest groups, including NRDC, joined Governor Brown to call for action on a proposed water bond that is slimmed down, focused on a key set of investments, and far superior to the $11.1 billion bond currently scheduled for the November ballot.  This collaborative meeting between Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Legislative water leaders and more than two dozen leaders from conservation,  agricultural, water, environmental justice, labor and business groups was focused on coming together around a revised bond proposal that is the right response to California’s drought.

The revised proposal would provide funds for safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities and invest $1.5 billion in water recycling, stormwater capture, water efficiency, and other local water supply projects (like those detailed in NRDC’s and the Pacific Institute’s “The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply” report released earlier this summer).  These projects have the potential to generate significant new water supplies and demand reductions to reduce the vulnerability of communities to drought.  

The proposed bond would allocate as much as $3.4 billion (more than half) in funding for groundwater storage and cleanup projects, one of the biggest challenges facing California. 

It also would fund projects to restore the San Joaquin River, L.A. River, and Salton Sea, as well as improving water supplies for the state’s wildlife refuges and other watershed restoration projects to improve water quality, water supply, and our environment. 

And, today, NRDC reached an agreement with the proposal’s authors regarding the use of bond funds to provide instream flows over and above required minimums.  With this essential, amended language – which our team was deeply committed to and fought hard for – the bond has become neutral on the controversial proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  Now that proposal to build two massive tunnels to transport water out of the Delta has been appropriately separated from critically needed investments in California’s water infrastructure and ecosystems.

This trimmed bond is a significant improvement over the outdated, bloated $11.1 billion bond passed by the Legislature in 2009 and scheduled to be on the ballot this year (absent action by the Legislature).

 We are pleased to see California water leaders come together to craft a sensible water bond and urge the Legislature to support the deal reached today, barring any significant changes.

Photo Credit: California Drought and Water Bond/shutterstock