News Feature | November 12, 2018

Approved By Water Agencies, Killed By Voters: Cali Water Bond

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

Among the notable defeats on election day was a proposed $9 billion water bond in California.

“California voters rejected a water bond for the first time in almost 30 years, disregarding pleas from its backers that the money would fix crumbling infrastructure, bring clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities and kick-start badly needed environmental restoration projects,” The Sacramento Bee reported.

California voters have not rejected a water bond since 1990, the report stated. Since then, nine water bonds have passed.

The proposition lost 52 to 48 percent, a gap of 320,000 votes out of 7 million, the report stated.

Proposition 3 would have “modernized old dams, restored tainted watersheds and created desalination plants, among dozens of other water projects throughout the state,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Water agencies were among the proposal’s biggest champions. Farming organizations, social justice groups, and environmentalists (though not the Sierra Club) also supported it.

“The Sierra Club argued that the measure was not worth the expense, and that agricultural interests that helped fund the campaign would disproportionately gain,” the report stated.

Prop 3 was California’s largest documented water bond proposal, according to the Associated Press.

“Local governments were projected to save about $200 million annually for water-related projects, with some matching funds required and preference given to disadvantaged communities,” the report stated.

“Voters previously approved nearly $35 billion in bonds since 1970 for water and environmental projects, including $4 billion from a ballot measure passed in June. About a third of all funding remains unspent,” it continued.

Why did the measure fail? Jerry Meral, who drafted the initiative, wishes he knew.

“I have no idea,” he told The Bee. “If I did, we would have fixed it before the election was happening. It really is kind of a mystery because it really was much like previous water bonds: safe drinking water, water supply and environmental elements and so on. It’s hard to figure out.”