Proposition 1, the California Water Bond On the November 4 Ballot, is Needed – Drought or No Drought

Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Piret Harmon, Brian Lockwood and Bruce McPherson

In November, voters will be asked whether to approve Proposition 1, a water bond measure that will have direct benefit to the Central Coast – thanks to our local legislators and lobbying by our local water representatives.

In the final weeks of bond negotiations, the Legislature’s focus was on two bills, SB 848 (Wolk) and AB 2686 (Perea), which at the time were both at a funding level of about $10 billion overall. At the end of the session, the Governor weighed in with a $6 billion proposal that heavily favored the Central Valley.

When the Legislature returned to session in August, marathon 20-hour a day negotiations over the water bond resulted. We were part of those discussions, working with Water Bond Coalition partners in a targeted outreach to policymakers in the final day of bond negotiations to ensure that Northern California and Central Coast communities weren’t left out of this bond.

We are pleased to report that the final language in the legislation, overwhelmingly passed by the State Senate and Assembly and signed by Governor Jerry Brown on August 13, provides for funding allocations for a wide variety of water projects and initiatives in all regions in the state. This measure will appear on the November 4 ballot as Proposition 1.

Proposition 1 is a fiscally responsible $7.5 billion bond that – if approved by a majority of voters – will provide for regional water reliability, sustainable groundwater management and cleanup, water use efficiency and recycling, new surface and groundwater storage projects, watershed protection, and safe drinking water.

The measure would make available targeted funds for significant investments in water infrastructure, water management, and ecosystem health.

The municipalities, water purveyors, conservancies, public and non-profit agencies of Santa Cruz County will have an opportunity to receive grant funds and low cost loans in a variety of eligible categories  –   watershed protection/restoration projects, public water system infrastructure improvements, conjunctive use and new potable reuse technology projects,  flood management activities, and  wastewater treatment in disadvantaged communities.

The bond is comprehensive in that it recognizes the needs of the different regions in the state and aims to improve the resiliency of the state’s water system and help achieve the co-equal goals. One of our region’s main concerns is water supply reliability for both agriculture and municipal uses due to the fact that we do not draw from the federal or state water projects and are entirely dependent on local resources. It is especially important for our county to make the most of potentially available assistance to support the implementation of high priority projects and programs to address the challenges facing the region.

The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency Board of Directors believes passage of this bond is critical to the future of California’s water supply system and voted unanimously on September 17 in favor of a resolution in support Proposition 1.  The proposition is also supported by a broad array of agricultural, business, labor, environmental, water, and wildlife organizations, including: Association of California Water Agencies, Audubon Society, California Chamber of Commerce, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Labor Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, State Building and Construction Trades, The Nature Conservancy, and the California State Association of Counties.

Our coalition partners intend to build upon our lobbying success with collaborative projects in the future. We hope that you will join us in supporting Proposition 1.

Piret Harmon is the General Manager of the Scotts Valley Water District.

Brian Lockwood is the Senior Water Resources Hydrologist for the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency.

Bruce McPherson is the Fifth District Supervisor of Santa Cruz County.