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State Water Project Lake Oroville. (Photo: water.ca.gov)

Why is California’s ‘More Water Now’ Ballot Initiative Already Under Attack?

The Legislature, Governor and unelected state water board officials are not doing what is best for California’s people

By Katy Grimes, December 6, 2021 8:06 am

California has a long history of squandering its precious water.

In 2014, California voters approved $7.12 billion in bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects. Of that, $2.7 billion was designated for water storage projects. But nearly 8 years later, there are no new dams or reservoirs, or other water storage projects to collect and store California’s winter runoff. And California is in yet another drought.

The state officials in charge bow to environmentalists by allowing half of the state’s water to flow out to the ocean, leaving farmers and local governments to fight for the other 50%. The state uses about 47.5 percent of its developed water supply for the environment, including wild river flows, managed wetlands and wildlife preserves, habitat and water quality control for fish, and required Delta outflows, according to the Department of Water Resources. Water is diverted in times of drought and times of plenty to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, leaving much less for irrigation or for Californians to drink.

Approximately 10% of the remaining water is used by cities, and 40% is used by agriculture. Yet it is always urban use and agriculture forced to conserve.

This is why the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 was written and has begun to qualify as a state ballot proposition. “More Water Now,” as it is known, will be a nonpartisan initiative constitutional amendment.

When approved by voters, this initiative will accomplish the following objectives:

• Allocate two percent of the state’s general fund to use for projects that increase California’s annual supply of water to farms and cities.

• Permit up to half of the 2% allocation to pay principal and interest on construction bonds.

• Give priority to underfunded projects already approved by voters in Prop. 1 (2014).

• Prioritize projects to deliver abundant and affordable water to underserved communities.

• Funding does not expire until the supply capacity of new projects provides five million acre feet of new water per year for California’s farms and cities.

• Funding for conservation achieving up to one million acre feet per year of water saved.

• Allocate funds based on an all-of-the-above strategy, allowing Californians to repair and upgrade aqueducts, dams, water treatment plants, build off-stream reservoirs, expand existing reservoirs, invest in wastewater reuse and desalination plants, runoff capture, and aquifer recharge and recovery.

• Streamlines CEQA and the Coastal Act. Redefines “beneficial use” to include cities and farms.

• Provides funding for legal defense of projects approved by the California Water Commission and other water agencies against frivolous lawsuits designed to delay the completion of projects.

• Includes funding for R&D of new technologies to deliver safe and affordable water.

California needs all of the above. Yet once again, because the Legislature, Governor and unelected state water board officials are not doing what is best for the people, the people will have to do what is necessary and vote on an initiative enshrining water use in the State Constitution.

Recently the San Jose Mercury News editorial board published a scathing editorial denouncing the initiative, and claiming it is “a water grab” to benefit “Big ag” and Central Valley Republicans.

“Say this for Central Valley Republicans and Big Ag backers: When it comes to proposing water projects that benefit Central Valley farmers at the expense of urban users and the state’s fragile environment, they are as persistent as an annoying, leaky faucet,” the editorial board said.

The More Water Now proponents are not just “Big ag” or Republicans, because everyone in California needs water. And notably, “Big ag” producers grow food, which everyone eats.

“The initiative is supported by a bipartisan and growing coalition of Democrats and Republicans, water agencies, cities, counties, business associations, community groups, construction workers, homebuilders and environmentalists that need the state to invest in water supply projects,” More Water Now explained in a rebuttal.

Perhaps the SJMN editorial board forgot that Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, authorized the $7.12 billion in general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects: public water system improvements, surface and groundwater storage, drinking water protection, water recycling and advanced water treatment technology, water supply management and conveyance, wastewater treatment, drought relief, emergency water supplies, and ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration.

The problem is that of the $7.12 billion, $2.7 billion dollars was specifically designated for new water storage projects, but thus far, hasn’t been used. As the California Department of Water Resources bond oversight shows, no water storage has been added, but ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects have been completed.

Since year 2000, California voters have approved eight water bonds totaling more than $30 billion, according the the Legislative Analyst’s Office. But the state bureaucrats empowered to get these projects built have to deal with endless litigation and constantly changing permitting requirements from dozens of local, state and federal agencies. Instead, the “successful bureaucrats keep their jobs by conditioning people to think it’s supposed to take 30-40 years to build a reservoir, or repair an aqueduct,” one water expert told the Globe. “They’re dead wrong. But they’re in charge.”

The SJMN editorial claims that more water for farmers “comes at the expense of urban users and the state’s fragile environment.” But the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced last Wednesday that the initial 2022 State Water Project (SWP) will be at 0% for the first time in state history due to the ongoing drought.

“More water projects mean more water available for wetlands, more water available for the Delta ecosystems, and more opportunities to manage chronic droughts and climate change,” More Water Now says. “And, to state what ought to be obvious, more water projects also means less imported food, and more affordable food.”

Perhaps most importantly in the rebuttal is this:

“Have the Mercury editors actually read The Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022?

  • Do they understand that it would fund upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, so water currently imported from Northern rivers could be reused instead of being dumped, with too much nitrogen and excessive salinity, back into the San Francisco and Santa Monica bays?
  • Do they understand how much more water will be left in the rivers, once these urban reuse projects are built? Are they aware of the provisions that fund replacement of the toxic pipes in Los Angeles public schools and elsewhere, or upgrade water treatment plants in underserved communities, or fund conservation projects to reduce use by another 1.0 million acre feet per year?
  • Do they understand that by funding off stream reservoirs to capture surplus water during storms, there’s more water not only for farmers and cities but also to maintain riparian ecosystems?”

State Sen. Jim Nielsen told the Globe in August he was deeply involved in the 2014 water bond package. “We can’t share scarcity,” he said. “I worked so hard to get people to understand ‘water is critical for for our future, and we did not have enough,’” Nielsen said. “The Delta is only part of California’s water. I told them that East, West, North and South of the Delta also had water issues and scarcity. Even coastal legislators recognize this now.”

In April, California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press event in Oroville, with a 60% empty Oroville Dam Reservoir as his backdrop, and said he was not ready to declare an official drought emergency – despite that the previous two weeks 91% of Delta inflow went to the sea, state pumps were at -97%, federal pumps at -85%, and outflows showed 6,060,828,600 gallons. Since April, Oroville has been drained almost dry, the Globe recently reported.

People forget the winter of 2019 brought 200 percent of average rains and snow pack. The state’s reservoirs held enough water for 5 to 7 years. Yet the state still held back on water to farmers, and residents faced rationing, the Globe reported May 2019, proving that water in California is a political football.

The state is still letting a lot of water out of Lake Shasta, Lake Oroville, Lake Folsom, while cutting water off to water districts.

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19 thoughts on “Why is California’s ‘More Water Now’ Ballot Initiative Already Under Attack?

  1. Irresponsible journalism is again at the forefront of many of California’s ills. Children in the editorial departments of news agencies that are interested only in advancing their careers with their corporate media parents. Perhaps the responsible journalists in media should take these spoiled children out behind the barn for some harsh discipline.
    It is way past time that journalism took the 1st amendment to task like they continue to attack the 2nd amendment.

  2. The state water board are a bunch of bafoons, in the 90’s they privatized the Kern water bank to the POM Wonderful company I don’t know why they even had a right to because they don’t own the aqueduct, so now when there is a drought the state has to buy the water back at three times the cost, thanks to the water board whoever they are, we need more responsible leadership in this state it’s been lacking for a while now and they need to stop promoting friends and family that will help a lot.

    1. That’s because the Reznicks, who OWN POM Wonderful, also basically own much of the Democrat state legislature, based upon their contribution history…check it out… Stewart and Lynda Reznick…

      This quid pro quo way of doing business and legislating in California is basically “pay for play” and smacks of corruption of the highest order…

  3. California dedicates itself to crisis agenda without resolve only the appearance of activity to resolve.

    Water storage has been an issue for decades, no one is held accountable on billions of dollars steered towards water conservation (storage), yet nothing is produced, so Democrats can DRIVE FEAR and supplement more taxations, bonds, etc….again never to solve the issue.

    This is what is called GOV’T CONTROL OVER THE PEOPLE, its an old try and true formula using crisis and fear – they also use this to fund their donors and their own pet projects through loopholes

  4. You cannot legislate corrupt and evil politicians into being honest and following the law. First clean up Sacramento and then pass good laws.

    1. Weather forecasts are saying that this will be an above-average rain/snow winter. When the reservoirs are full again do we go through these shortages again under Democrat one-party rule in California? Elections have consequences. FREE CALIFORNIA.

  5. If you ask me, the endless and long-time screaming of the greenies is only a vehicle, a cover, for odious Dem politicians to control the population. If you were a villainous “leader” and wanted to bring the population to its knees, you would do it through water “scarcity,” wouldn’t you? Because what is more fundamental to human beings than that?

  6. The Dem Party and is MSM propagandists want scarcity because it gives the Dem Party more power and furthers their goal of making the lives of the working men and women of California (and America) worse.

    While I will vote for the initiative if it makes the ballot, I do not expect better results than the $30B of water bonds passed since 2000. The money will go into a system that is corrupt, incompetent, and that wants scarcity.

    1. “The Legislature, Governor and unelected state water board officials are not doing what is best for California’s people”

      Why should they? From actual and fraudulent votes, they keep getting reelected no matter how poorly they govern.

  7. Look at any communist country. It is a constant cycle of shortages, and and government promising it will take care of the people. The same playbook is being replicated in California by the leftist Democrats. I guaranty if Republicans were in charge, this would not be happening. Reservoirs would be built. Desalinization plants would be built. Most of the urban areas in California are on the coast, next to an unlimited supply of water that just needs to be processed for public use. There is absolutely no reason why coastal urban areas should have constant water shortages.

  8. Once again Katy spouts nonsense about the capacity of Orville and Shasta. Shasta’s useable storage is a little over 4 million acre feet. Oroville’s is less than 2.8 million. Adds up to 6.8 maf of usable storage. It takes about 4 maf per year just to keep the Delta fresh enough so water can be exported. It takes almost 2 maf per year to water those thirsty Delta crops. That’s one year of water for the Delta in the reservoirs when full just for the Delta not to mention all the other senior water right holders. But somehow there was enough water in those reservoirs to last 5 to 7 years. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know about California water.

  9. And for the comments above, here are some facts you ignored:
    A week after the Resnicks gave that donation to Newsom, his administration cut their water allocation in half, so they paid for 100% of their contract and got 5% of the water.
    And as for the Republicans: it was not the SWRCB that gave the Kern Water Bank away, it was DWR under Pete Wilson (R) in 1995 as part of the Monterey Agreement (Kern gave up a lot to get it). And as for that supposed 7 year drought the SWP was supposed to get through: that required diverting the Eel River with a dam to the Sacramento River and other reservoirs to add 5 Million Acre Feet of storage. Who stopped all that??? Ronald Reagan (R) with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That fake 7 years of drought also depended on needing only 1.5 million acre-feet per year to keep the Delta fresh: those were bogus DWR numbers and they knew that they were bogus when Reagan (R) was governor, but did not change them until after the Delta Accord in 1994 where the SWP and CVP gave up 1 million acre feet to fish and wildlife (under Pete Wilson (R) and Bill Clinton (D)). Oh and then there is Arnold the Terminator (R) who cost the SWP and Westlands hundreds of millions in a ridiculous effort to get a Bay Delta Conservation Plan, doomed from the start by bad assumptions and plans, and where are those tunnels?? Down from 15,000 cfs to 6,000 cfs thanks to Newsom (D) and Brown (D). So my question is: for all those comments that are just nonsense: do you make it up out of malice or ignorance? I am pretty sure Katy is out of ignorance. But I am guessing “Both” is the answer for the rest of you.

  10. And finally, as for the initiative, it takes money from the General Fund to pay for projects that primarily benefit farms in the valley, (as for recycling, what happens when Orange County gets a desal plant (using other people’s money?) the water they would have used from the SWP goes back to other customers in the SWP and who are they? MWD and farmers benefit. The fact is farmers get a huge amount of water, even in droughts; just ask MID, TID, Yuba, Sac Valley rice farmers, East side SJR farmers: the ones not getting water are the junior water right holders (SWP and CVP). This is a scheme to get other people to pay for getting them more water. In fact as many have said: there is plenty of water, there is just no more CHEAP water. So if you want more water, get out your check books and go do the projects yourselves. And if you need to loosen up EIR and permit requirements to do it with an initiative, I will join you.

    1. Waterwonk, Thank you for your sensible and thorough analysis of the situation. This comment board is filled with unintelligent conservatives. Nice to see someone with a background on this subject providing a thorough critique.

  11. Everyone comment is bashing if Democrats. But show me one project or decent bill Republicans have offered. It seems they con their way to the to of the money grab and offer absolutely NO solutions. How about electing People who actually have a track record of getting something done regardless of their party?

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