Geoff Vanden Heuvel
Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs
A final version of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 is under review by the California Attorney General’s office. It is anticipated that this ballot initiative will be ready for signature collection around November 1, 2021. It will require 997,179 valid signatures to go on the November 2022 ballot for voter consideration. This is a very serious effort to change the water supply paradigm in California from a water scarcity reality to a provision of water supply adequacy for towns, farms and cities, while protecting and respecting our natural resources.
Here is the summary of the initiative from organizers:
Our ballot proposition, a nonpartisan initiative constitutional amendment, when approved by voters, will accomplish the following objectives:
• Provide ample funds for water infrastructure by allocating a mere two percent of the state’s general fund to use for projects that increase California’s annual supply of water to farms and cities.
• Unlock immediate access to tens of billions to invest in water projects by permitting up to half of the two percent allocation to be used to pay principal and interest on construction bonds.
• Give priority to underfunded projects approved by voters in Prop. 1 (2014) that are also already approved by the California Water Commission.
• Prioritize maintenance, repair and upgrades for projects to deliver abundant and affordable drinking water to underserved communities.
• Funding does not expire until the supply capacity of new projects provides five million acre feet of new water for California’s farms and cities, with surplus water used to protect California’s ecosystems.
• Eligible projects include funding for conservation programs achieving up to one million acre feet of water saved.
• Allocate funds based on an all-of-the-above strategy, allowing Californians to repair and upgrade aqueducts, dams, water treatment plants, build off-stream reservoirs, expand existing reservoirs, invest in wastewater reuse and desalination plants, runoff capture, and aquifer recharge and recovery.
• Streamline the bureaucratic process so projects can be designed and built in a reasonable period of time, instead of taking many decades to get approved and completed.
Californians have neglected their water infrastructure for decades, even though our population has increased to nearly 40 million. This fact, coupled with climate change and prolonged droughts, means that achieving water resilience should be a top priority.
This effort has already garnered the support of a bipartisan group of 27 state legislators. You can see their letter of support here. The Milk Producers Council Board of Directors this week contributed to the signature gathering campaign. It will take somewhere between $5-$6 million to get the required signatures to place this on the ballot, so funding is critical. But there is growing support for this in urban California, as well as agriculture, as Californians realize that a major investment in water supply for our state is necessary if we are going to flourish as a society.
You can find out much more information and sign up for updates and contribute at the website: www.MoreWaterNow.com
Full disclosure, I am on the steering committee and one of the legal proponents of the initiative.