Viewpoints: Prop. 1 is a balanced investment in water infrastructure

In 1960, another Proposition 1 was on the November ballot. That measure, formally known as the California Water Resources Development Bond Act, passed by a narrow margin, allowing a significant investment in California’s water infrastructure and fueling the growth of the state into what we know it to be today.

This November, voters have another opportunity to make a long-overdue investment in our state’s water infrastructure, making it more reliable for all Californians and more resilient to climate change.

Proposition 1 is the first real integrated water plan in more than half a century. Placed on the ballot by a bipartisan group of legislators and supported by agricultural, environmental and business groups, the measure will fund a whole range of critical water needs throughout the state, aimed at water quality and water reliability.

This $7.5 billion bond represents the most significant investment in groundwater treatment in our state’s history, and it will provide wastewater treatment projects for 1 million Californians who lack clean drinking water.

Investments in water recycling and stormwater capture projects will help more communities cope with future droughts and the vagaries of climate change. Regional projects funded through Proposition 1 will reduce reliance on groundwater – already depleted after years of drought and overdraft in some of the most critical basins – and reduce their reliance on water exported from the Delta, a fragile ecosystem taxed by the many demands for water from farmers, fish and urban communities in the East Bay.

This year’s extreme drought demonstrates how quickly communities can deplete water supplies. Proposition 1 responds with funding to develop new water storage capacity, both above ground and below. Expanded storage will help stabilize water supplies throughout California by capturing more water in wet years, for use in dry years.

Additionally, Proposition 1 makes smart investments in habitat conservation and restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The measure requires the state to coordinate with cities and counties on habitat projects to ensure that local voices are heard and concerns addressed. The bond also funds the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy ensuring that it can fulfill its duties as set out in the legislation that created it five years ago.

Beyond conservation, Proposition 1 guarantees that funding for levee improvements and water supplies will be there for the Delta region, which remains vulnerable to a weather event such as Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy. Climate change makes such extreme weather more likely and more unpredictable. Proposition 1 will help protect the Delta and Central Valley against the devastating effects seen in other parts of the country.

This plan also ensures that bond funds used for environmental flows in the upper watershed will be long-term and will not supersede regulatory requirements. Proposition 1 has no effect on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Rather, it ensures that no funds will be used for the design, construction, mitigation, operation or maintenance of the Delta tunnels. Even ardent opponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan have endorsed Proposition 1 because of those assurances.

Californians have a historic opportunity on Election Day, just as they did more than 50 years ago, to make wise investments in our water infrastructure.

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