2014 Water Bond
Reaching agreement on a modified water bond for the November ballot has emerged as a top priority when legislators return to the Capitol in early August.
ACWA continues to seek a bond that works for the entire state and funds investments in water storage capacity, key local strategies such as conservation, recycling, groundwater cleanup and management, watershed protection, and safe drinking water improvements, particularly in disadvantaged communities around the state.
Though legislative leaders had hoped to finish work on a water bond before adjourning for recess on July 3, more time was needed to reach a bipartisan agreement on a downsized measure to replace the existing $11.14 billion bond current set to go before voters this fall. Discussions continue in both houses, with various legislative proposals and a $6 billion initial proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown all on the table.
On the Senate side, lawmakers amended SB 848 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) on July 3 to propose a $7.5 billion measure, down from the $10.5 billion proposal that fell short of the two-thirds vote required in a Senate floor vote on June 23.
In the Assembly, lawmakers are discussing a measure in the $8 billion range. A proposal may emerge in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in early August.
Background on the 2014 Water Bond
The 2014 water bond is the product of a comprehensive legislative package crafted in 2009 by Governor Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers to meet California’s growing water challenges. This package represented a major step toward ensuring a reliable water supply for future generations, as well as restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and other ecologically sensitive areas. The package was composed of four policy bills and an $11.14 billion bond. The water bond measure was originally set to be on the state's 2010 ballot and was later moved to the 2012 ballot. The California State Legislature, on July 5, 2012, approved a bill to take the measure off the 2012 ballot and put it on the 2014 ballot to provide a public cost share for elements of the package that benefit the public.
The Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2014 is an $11.14 billion general obligation bond proposal that would provide funding for California’s aging water infrastructure and for projects and programs to address the ecosystem and water supply issues in California.
The Need for the Water Bond
Virtually every aspect of California’s economy depends on water. Yet investments in the statewide water system have not kept pace with a growing population and changing needs. Large-scale investments are needed in areas such as water storage capacity, recycling facilities, levee improvements, flood control facilities, and water treatment plants. Substantial investments in ecosystem restoration and habitat improvements are also needed if we are to meet the coequal goals of improved water supply reliability and ecosystem health.
How the Funds Would be Allocated
In its current form, the bond would allocate roughly $4 billion for local resources development, $4 billion for ecosystem restoration and $3 billion for the public benefits associated with new surface and groundwater storage projects. Every $1 authorized as part of the bond would leverage $3 to $4 in other funds, for a total of up to $40 billion for needed investments.
The vast majority of public funds allocated by the bond would go through a rigorous competitive process to ensure dollars go to a public benefit. There would also be careful review of dollars targeted for ecosystem restoration and a competitive process to determine the highest value investments.