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Viewpoints: Water bond must recognize Sierra’s importance

Before they left Sacramento for summer recess, legislators said they would work together to hammer out a new water bond bill when they returned in August. This would replace the $11.14 billion proposal currently on the November ballot, which has already been delayed twice.

Although legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown have put forward conflicting ideas that may be difficult to reconcile, we have confidence our leadership can get the job done. But it will be up to us to hold our elected leaders accountable because if they don’t pass a workable water bond deal, we risk devastating consequences.

Here are just a few reasons why:

California voters have passed water bonds every two to four years on average since the mid-1980s. We do this because protecting our water sources – for drinking, commerce, food production and for environmental and other needs – is fundamental to our individual and collective survival. It takes money and, when spent wisely, that money benefits the whole state.

Why is this bond proving so difficult?

To get a bond passed these days, it has to contain something for everyone, which inflates the price tag at a time when Brown and many Californians are 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 water bond funding to address the drought, protect jobs, conserve important resources and otherwise help fix the state’s outdated water system – beginning where the water does, in the source areas.

To that end, the Sierra Business Council recommends that any new water bond do the following:

All Californians share a need for predictable, clean and abundant supplies of water, along with the many other benefits provided to us by our forested watersheds. Fixing the state’s water system will take decades; but we have real and documented needs right now. Investment in the source areas is one in a series of linked actions needed over the next 10 to 20 years to secure our water for the future. Investing in California’s primary watershed should be a high priority for the state, regardless of which bill becomes the final vehicle for a 2014 water bond.