“It’s so bad even Lady Gaga is hawking the water conservation message”
Before they left for summer recess, legislators promised to hammer out a new water bond bill when they returned in August. This would be a bill to replace the $11.14 billion proposal currently on the November ballot, which has been delayed twice due to conflicts over its size.
Although legislators and the Administration have offered conflicting ideas, we need them to come together in August and pass a workable water bond deal for the November ballot. Here‘s why:
* The drought will likely cost the state’s economy $2.2 billion and 17,100 jobs;
* While the Governor called for a 20% reduction in water use, urban and residential customers actually increased usage by 1% over previous years;
* Based on that increase, the State Water Board made wasting water a crime punishable by fines of up to $500 a day;
* 428,000 acres of irrigated cropland have gone out of production, including livestock and dairy feed;
* Farmers are pumping more and more groundwater, but we don’t know how much longer that can last;
* Nearly 80% of California voters believe we need to do something now to change how we manage groundwater supplies and for the first time since 2000 voters cite water and drought as a higher priority than wildfire and air quality;
* It’s gotten so bad even Lady Gaga is hawking the water conservation message.
California voters have passed water bonds on average every two to four years since the mid-1980s. We do this because protecting our source waters – for drinking, commerce, food production, environmental and other needs – is fundamental to our survival; protecting our source waters takes money; and, when spent wisely, that money benefits the whole state. To get a bond passed these days, however, it has to contain “something for everyone,” which inflates the price tag at a time when California is trying to be more fiscally prudent. Economic pragmatism is a good thing, but we can’t let it undermine the important goal of protecting and enhancing our watersheds and the many services they provide. California needs funding to address the drought, protect jobs, conserve important resources and fix the state’s outdated water system – beginning where the water does, in the source areas.
To that end, Sierra Business Council recommends that a water bond:
* Recognize the Sierra-Cascade as an area of statewide significance because it provides 65-75% of the state’s developed water and 50% of the freshwater inflow to the Delta; * Allocate funding regionally based on population, land area and significance to the state water system;
* Distribute funding through state conservancies in areas where they operate, honoring their local knowledge and track record of completing projects that achieve statewide goals; and
* Make investments in the areas where they will do the most good, eg. areas where the water originates, not just in the urban areas where the votes exist.
Californians need clean and abundant water, along with the other benefits watersheds provide. Investment in the source areas is necessary to secure our water future; therefore, investing in California’s primary watershed should be a high priority for whichever bond moves forward.
See Part 2 later this week for more information on the current water bond proposals.