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Californians Drink Up $7.5B Water Bond; Measure Passes Overwhelmingly

Californians Drink Up $7.5B Water Bond; Measure Passes Overwhelmingly
California lawmakers hope a massive $7.5 billion will help the state deal with a punishing four-year drought. The measure would fund a variety of water projects, possibly including the first new dams to be built in decades.

UPDATE: 8:46 p.m. Voters say a thirsty "yes" to water bond.

Approved by a wide margin, the $7.5 billion water bond will help pay for improvements to California's water supply from storage to water quality. Proposition 1 went before state voters after four years of drought. Critics argued it didn't do enough for San Diegans. But San Diego County Water Authority chair Mark Weston says local water projects are in line for an immediate influx of cash, and there's a chance for much more. "There are about $70 million of monies that are directly available for San Diego. And then there's about $3 billion of monies that we will compete for."


UPDATE: 8:10 p.m. Early returns show the measure leading by 69 percent

California's drought-stricken electorate is throwing strong support behind the ballot measure to help clean and store more water for the state. Governor Jerry Brown, also enjoying voter support as ballots get counted, campaigned hard for the infrastructure that builds on his father's legacy.

Original post:

California voters will decide Tuesday whether to invest $7.5 billion in the state’s water delivery system. Proposition 1 allocates money for projects that include water treatment, watershed management and water storage.


Prop 1: Where The Money Flows

• $2.7 billion for water storage projects, dams and reservoirs

• $1.5 billion for competitive grants for watershed protection and lake, river and stream restoration projects

• $520 million to improve water quality for "beneficial use," for reducing and preventing drinking water contaminants, for disadvantaged communities, and for small community grants

• $810 million for expenditures on and competitive grants and loans to drought and climate change mitigation projects

• $725 million for wastewater and saltwater recycling

• $900 million for competitive grants and loans for projects to prevent or clean up contamination of groundwater that serves as a drinking water source

• $395 million for statewide flood management projects and activities

Source: Ballotpedia, California Proposition 1, Water Bond (2014)

Bonds would be sold to raise the cash. The money would be paid back out of the state’s general fund over 40 years.

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll found a majority of registered voters support Proposition 1. The poll released Oct. 22 found the bond measure drew support from 56 percent of likely voters, while 32 percent of those polled did not support the measure. Twelve percent didn’t know.

California’s punishing drought is pumping up interest in Proposition 1. More than 60 percent of the state’s likely voters said they were following the drought issue either very closely or fairly closely.

The Public Policy Institute of California poll found that water is now one of the top issues on voters' minds. Twenty-eight percent said water or drought were the most important issues facing California. Thirty percent said jobs and the economy were most important.

Who is supporting the bond and why?

The bond’s most visible supporter is Governor Jerry Brown. He has spent more than $3 million of his own re-election money on television ads for Proposition 1, the water bond, and Proposition 2, the rainy day fund. All together supporters have raised more than $13 million.

Nearly every state lawmaker and both of the state’s major political parties backed the water bond as it moved through the legislature. It enjoys support from California’s water agencies, environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council, and government groups such as the California Association of Counties and League of California Cities.

"It'll be a catalyst for getting projects started faster and sooner," Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority said. "And we need those projects going right now to deal with not only our long-term water supply needs as a region here in San Diego and in California, but also to make our region and state more resilient to droughts."

Who’s against the measure and why?

Opposition comes from a collection of farmers, environmentalists and political advocates tied to the future of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Southern California Watershed Alliance are among those opposing the measure. The Environmental Water Caucus and Center for Biological Diversity are also speaking out against the measure.

Marco Gonzalez with the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation said too much of the money in the borrowing package gets spent elsewhere.

“It really focuses most of the money on Northern California, and it really focuses on basically corporate agricultural interests," Gonzalez said. "It doesn't give us what we need down here in San Diego at the end of the pipe in terms of long-term water supply benefits."

Opponents have raised about $89,000 to fight the measure.