The California Legislative Analysts Office has just produced a report to estimate the financial impact of the “Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022,” a proposed ballot initiative that aims to increase the annual supply of water to Californians by five million acre feet. The contents of this report are good news for every Californian. More water. Lower water bills.
The initiative calls for two percent of the state general fund to be set aside to develop new water supplies. Projects eligible for this funding would include the development or expansion of facilities for:
- Groundwater cleanup and storage.
- Stormwater capture, treatment, and storage.
- Water recycling.
- Surface reservoirs.
- Desalination of seawater or brackish water.
- Water conveyance, such as canals or pipes.
Also eligible for funding are water conservation programs to achieve up to 1 million acre-feet of the total objective of 5 million acre-feet of water.
Among the fiscal effects predicted by the Legislative Analyst include increased state spending on water supply projects, and potentially less funding available for other state activities. Notwithstanding the multi-billion budget surplus California’s legislature currently enjoys, this redirecting of spending for water projects is what the initiative proponents intend. The State of California has neglected its water infrastructure for decades. With climate change promising dryer winters and a reduced Sierra snowpack, this is the perfect moment for California to prioritize spending on a resilient water infrastructure.
Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R, Tulare), a supporter of the initiative who has gathered endorsements from a growing bipartisan list of state legislators, had this to say in response to the LAO report: “This is a first of its kind ballot initiative. We set the goal based on our state’s current and future water needs, set ongoing funding for a diverse set of eligible project categories, and placed a sunset for when the goal is reached.” Mathis added, “This is a vote for people to lower their water bills, and for cities and school districts to upgrade their water systems without breaking their local budgets.”
Mathis is correct. As the LAO report notes, “it could result in water customers paying lower water bills than they otherwise would in the absence of the measure.”
One of the proponents, Lisa Ohlund, the retired general manager of the East Orange County Water District, explained the long-term benefits of this initiative, saying “climate change projections have many water districts concerned about their ability to reliably deliver safe water in quantities that will protect people, trees and the economy. This initiative focuses tax dollars on this enormously important problem at a pivotal time. We must take action to prepare for the increasingly harsh storms that will dump large amounts of rain on California, and the extended dry periods where we must look to water recycling and desalination to help fill in the shortfalls. California lead the world in water in the last century; we need to do the same in this one.”
To learn more about the progress of this game changing initiative, visit their website HERE.