While California struggles through an epic drought with no forecasted end in sight, corporations and elected leaders play upon our justified fears in order to push through a massive water bond that doesn't get at the root of our water crisis. The lack of rain has clearly been a problem, but the fact that our state has routinely over-allocated our annual water supply highlights the fundamental mismanagement of water: on paper, our state has promised 5 times the amount of water we receive in annual rainfall, snowmelt, etc. This is the real water crisis—one that Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond on the November ballot fails to address. With interest, that’s a $14.4 billion mistake that taxpayers will pay for over the next 40 years.
Proposition 1 won’t increase the state’s water supply, won’t provide drought relief, and won’t improve California’s long-term water outlook. Rather than prioritize sustainable water solutions, this wrong-headed bond package kowtows to a political system beholden to large financial interests that prioritize short-term profits subsidized by taxpayers.
Rather than prioritize sustainable water solutions, this wrong-headed bond package kowtows to a political system beholden to large financial interests that prioritize short-term profits subsidized by taxpayers.
Agriculture accounts for around 80% of our state’s water usage. Proposition 1 does nothing to manage or rein in the entities that are growing water-intensive crops like almonds, pistachios, and pomegranates in the desert. Instead, Prop 1 would continue to support these greedy, irresponsible growers (a lion’s share of their harvest is exported for sale overseas) in two ways. The first is by providing $500-$900 million in public money that can be used to buy public water to pump into the Delta to help make up for the over-pumping by the Westland Water District and Kern County Water Agency. Once that water is in the Delta, the same legal loophole that allows the over-pumping makes it possible to pump that water down to the same agencies so they can sell it at a subsidized rate to those same agricultural interests. Read: public funds for private interests.
In addition, Prop 1 sets aside $2.7 billion for water storage projects – meaning dams. Building new dams during a drought in a state that already has 1,400 damns is an egregious waste of taxpayer money, especially when the three dam projects prioritized in Prop 1 would increase the state’s water supply by just 1%.
In contrast, the bond contains zero money for fixing the type of infrastructure erosion that caused the pipe to burst at UCLA in July that cost us millions of gallons of water. We lose billions of gallons of water every year because of aging and fracturing distribution systems across the state, but the bond offers woefully inadequate funding to address this glaring problem.
Only 1.3% of the bond -- $100 million dollars -- could go toward conservation projects, about 2.6% to storm water capture, 9.6% to water recycling and 12% to groundwater cleanup. That is just a drop in the bucket for an enormous state with great need, and local communities, non-profits, and water districts will have to compete to receive a trickle of these funds while the rest of their taxpayer dollars flow right into the pockets of a few big special interests.
The financial argument against another water bond is made more prescient when we remember that between 2000 and 2006 voters passed five water bonds totaling $15.47 billion between 2000 and 2006. That money has not solved our water crisis, but with the cost of interest, they will cost us nearly $30 billion to financial institutions for water infrastructure that prioritizes profits over people and the environment.
Don’t make that same mistake again. Vote NO on Proposition 1 and demand real water solutions.
Food & Water Watch