Proposition 13, Changes to California's Water Code (1982)
Proposition 13, if it had been approved, would have made significant changes to four parts of the California Water Code (the part of California's state statutes that regulate water). Proposition 13 would have impacted the state's laws governing:
- Water conservation
- Instream water uses
- Restrictions on storage of water at the New Melones Reservoir
- Groundwater management.
Relative to water conservation, Proposition 13 would have required organizations involved in supplying more than 20,000 acre-feet of water to the state or federal government, or organizations involved in the transfer of water from one basin to another, to develop water conservation programs. Proposition 13 defined in detail a number of requirements that the water conservation programs would have to meet.
Relative to instream water uses, Proposition 13 would have authorized the State Water Resources Control Board to approve an appropriation of water from a stream or lake only when the appropriation of that water could be construed as for "reasonable and beneficial instream uses."
Relative to the New Melones Reservoir, Proposition 13 would have restricted the amount of water that could be stored behind the Federal New Melones Dam on the Stanislaus River and it would have attempted to revise the congressionally authorized pricing of water from the New Melones Project.
With respect to groundwater management, Proposition 13 would have imposed an additional layer of groundwater management control on 11 groundwater basins throughout the state including (a) Santa Cruz-Pajaro, (b) Cuyama Valley, (c) Ventura County, (d) Eastern San Joaquin, (e) Chowchilla, (f) Madera, (g) Kings, (h) Kaweah, (i) Tulare Lake, (j) Tule, and (k) Kern County.
If Proposition 13 had been approved, it would have made numerous changes to California's Water Code.
Proposition 13's official ballot summary said:
- "Adds numerous sections to Water Code. Principal provisions: (1) Interbasin water transfers -- requires development and implementation of specified water conservation programs for annual appropriations of more than 20,000 acre-feet. (2) Instream appropriations -- allows for fishery, wildlife, recreational, aesthetic, scientific, scenic, water quality, and other uses. (3) Stanislaus River and New Melones Dam -- specifies conditions concerning water storage and uses. (4) Groundwater -- declares 11 named basins critical overdraft areas and establishes management authorities in these with specified duties and powers, including authority to limit, control, or prohibit groundwater extractions. Also contains policy statements, enforcement, and other provisions."
The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:
- "The State Water Resources Control Board estimates that it would incur a cost of $1.48 million annually (1982 prices) for six years to carry out its new responsibilities related to water conservation, instream protection, the New Melones Reservoir and groundwater management. Both the Departments of Fish and Game and Water Resources maintain that they would not incur any significant increased costs, because they are now operating in a manner that is relatively consistent with the measure.
- Under this measure both the state and local governments would incur short-term planning and administrative costs and long-term implementation costs. These costs would be most significant in those areas of the state specifically targeted by the measure. The extent of these costs would depend on the specific decisions made by government entities, prospective diverters of water, and individual water users.
- Certain provisions of this measure, particularly those affecting groundwater rights and modification of federal operations at New Melones, raise legal questions that are likely to result in lawsuits testing the legality of the measure and its implementation. The Attorney General's office would incur unknown costs, depending on the extent of litigation, to validate and enforce provisions of the measure. Because the outcome of such litigation could have a considerable effect on the fiscal impact of this measure, the measure's overall fiscal effect on the state and local governments cannot be determined.
- If the measure defers the filling of the New Melones Reservoir, it is likely to result in an unknown loss of power revenues to the Central Valley Project and its local water and power service contractors.
- The water conservation and improved groundwater management features of the measure could result in long-term savings to the state and affected local agencies by reducing the costs incurred to add new water supplies and pump water."
Path to the ballot
As an initiated state statute, Proposition 13 earned its spot on the ballot through the collection of signatures on petitions.
- PDF of the mailed November 2, 1982 voter guide for Proposition 13
- Hastings California I&R database
- California Law Library, November 2, 1982 ballot propositions