California Proposition 1, Water Bond (2014)

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Water Bond
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Type:Bond question
Referred by:California State Legislature
Topic:Bond issues
Status:On the ballot
A California Water Bond is on the November 4, 2014 ballot, as a legislatively-referred bond act. The measure is known by its supporters as the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act.[1]

The Water Bond Measure was originally certified to be on the state's 2010 ballot. It was removed and placed on the 2012 ballot. The California State Legislature, on July 5, 2012 approved a bill to take the measure off the 2012 ballot and put it on the 2014 ballot; Lois Wolk, one of the state senators who voted in favor of this move, said that it was undertaken because the Democratic majority in the state legislature wanted to do everything they could to ensure that the Jerry Brown Take Hike Initiative on the November 6, 2012, ballot had a good chance of passing. She said, "We are faced with a tax levy in November. It would be disastrous to have [the borrowing] on the ballot."[2][3]

If voters approve the water bond, it will allow the state government to borrow $11.1 billion to overhaul the state's water system.

The last time California voters approved a water bond was with Proposition 84 in 2006. Proposition 84 authorized $5.4 billion in spending on water projects. Its supporters spent $11.4 million on their campaign urging a "yes" vote. Four years earlier, with Proposition 50 in 2002, voters approved $3.4 billion for water projects.[4] In total, from 1996-2006, voters approved about $11 billion for water projects.[5] Proposition 1 in 1960 originally created the State Water Project that has been regularly replenished with additional water project bond votes since then.

As of January 2010, California had a total bond debt of $89 billion from previous bond issues approved by the state's voters. The state makes yearly debt payments of about $10 billion on its $89 billion debt load.[6]

Although there will be plenty of hot-button issues on the 2014 ballot in California, some observers predict that "the biggest fight, the sharpest split, may come over water."[7]

Timing of election

The water bond was originally slated to appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot as Proposition 18. However, on August 9, 2010, the California State Legislature voted to postpone the vote on the measure from November 2010 to the November 6, 2012 ballot.

In January 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown said he thought the measure should be removed from the 2012 ballot and, instead, be placed on the 2014 ballot.[8]

In March 2012, Darrell Steinberg, the President Pro Tem of the California State Senate remarked to reporters that he believed the state legislature would most likely act to remove the water bond from the November 2012 ballot.[9]

On July 2, 2012, Assembly Bill 1422 was approved on a 5-0 vote of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. AB 1422, sponsored by Henry Perea, removed the Water Bond measure from the November 6, 2012, ballot and placed it, instead, on the November 2014 ballot.[10] On July 5, 2012, the bill was approved by the full state legislature and sent to the desk of Jerry Brown for his signature.[3]


Specific spending proposals in the proposition include:

  • $455 million for drought relief projects, disadvantaged communities, small community wastewater treatment improvements and safe drinking water revolving fund.
  • $1.4 billion for "integrated regional water management projects"
  • $2.25 billion for projects that "support delta sustainability options".
  • $3 billion for water storage projects
  • $1.7 billion for ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects in 21 watersheds.
  • $1 billion for groundwater protection and cleanup.
  • $1.25 billion for "water recycling and advanced treatment technology projects".

Earmarks, pork alleged

"Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over."--Mark Twain

The $11 billion water bond bill includes about $2 billion in earmarks for projects that "lawmakers candidly acknowledge were included in the proposal to win the votes that were needed to pass the plan out of the Legislature."[11]

Examples of projects that would be funded if the proposition passes are:

  • $40 million to educate the public about California's water.[11]
  • $100 million for a Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program for watershed restoration, bike trails and public access and recreation projects.
  • $75 million for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, for public access, education and interpretive projects.
  • $20 million for the Baldwin Hills Conservancy to be used to buy more land. The conservancy is near the home of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.
  • $20 million for the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach for interpretive projects for visitors.[11]

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the Governor of California at the time the state legislature voted to put the water bond on the ballot, said in response to its critics, "When you hear about pork, what is for some people pork is for us cleaning up the groundwater."[11]

The amount of money requested in the bill was increased by $1.15 billion in an all-night session that ended just hours before the bill was approved.

The proposition "was written largely by lobbyist Joe Caves." He is characterized as "a key player behind previous water bonds" and someone who is "a master broker who brings together environmentalists, business groups and various parts of the state that often have very different interests."[4]

Ron Stork, a senior policy advocate for "Friends of the River", says, "The water bond is a mess. It’s a creature of pork-barrel politics in the Legislature, allowing state-federal water contractors and dam builders to put as much of the costs onto general taxpayers, as opposed to the beneficiaries."[5]

Sierra Nevada Conservancy would like to add the following reasons to retain upper watershed funding:

  • Current funding for projects in the upper watersheds is a mere 2% of the bond total. Without funding for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Mountain Counties IRWMP programs and Sierra-based forest/watershed projects, no State bond expenditures would be guaranteed for the region that provides the bulk of California’s water.
  • Funding for regional water supply and reliability solutions in the Sierra Nevada – an area that provides more than half the inflow to the Delta each year and at least 60% of the State’s developed water for irrigation, domestic and commercial use – is absolutely appropriate and necessary to address the State’s short- and long-term water challenges.
  • Local assistance funding competitively awarded by the SNC from a prior bond act (Proposition 84) has supported close to 200 watershed protection projects and leveraged more than $108 million in other funds. These projects have reduced fire risk, protected water quality, and restored watershed health on more than 82,000 acres across 22 counties in the Sierra, the State’s primary watershed.

Text of measure

See also: Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California 2012 ballot propositions

Ballot title:

Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012

Official summary:

To protect water quality and ensure safe, clean drinking water; meet the water supply needs of California residents, farms, businesses; expand water conservation and recycling; restore fish and wildlife habitat; reduce polluted runoff that contaminates rivers, streams, beaches, and bays; and protect the safety of water supplies threatened by earthquakes and other natural disasters; the State of California shall issue bonds totalling eleven billion one hundred forty million dollars ($11,140,000,000) paid from existing state funds subject to independent, annual audits, and citizen oversight.

Summary of estimated fiscal impact:

Increased state bond costs of under $385 million annually through 2015, thereafter reaching $765 million annually for a few decades. Potentially significant state and local operations and maintenance costs and local costs for matching requirements.


Note: As a consequence of the January 27, 2011 ruling in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen, attorney general Kamala Harris has the authority to re-write this ballot language.[12]



The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta


  • Sierra Club California [2]
  • Food & Water Watch [3]
  • Clean Water Action [4]
  • Planning and Conservation League [5]
  • Environmental Justice Coalition for Water [6]
  • California Water Impact Network [7]
  • Salmon Water Now [8]
  • Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermens' Association [9]
  • Restore the Delta [10]
  • Full list of endorsers of the No on the Water Bond campaign [11]
  • United Farmworkers [12]
  • Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill [13]
  • Democratic Senator Lois Wolk
  • Republican assemblyman Charles DeVore says that the bond amount is approximately double what it would take to "add water and fix the ecologically fragile delta." He asks, "Why is it that the price tag for this is a little more than double what it takes to do the job?"[11]
  • Democratic assemblywoman Noreen Evans who has called it "the same tired story all over again." This comment was an allusion to the Peripheral Canal Vote of 1982, when northern California voters went to the ballot box to overturn a plan of the California State Legislature to divert water from northern California to southern California through a concrete canal starting on the periphery of the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta that would have moved water resources south.
  • Environmentalist Jonas Minton, a water policy analyst at the Planning and Conservation League, says, "This bloated bond just throws money at water without the thoughtful stewardship the taxpayers deserve."[4]
  • Wesley Chesbro, a Democratic member of the California General Assembly. He says, "Funding removal of the Klamath dams while at the same time threatening the flows in the Trinity River is a fool’s bargain. We need to find a way to fund dam removal that doesn’t put the Trinity and our other North Coast rivers at risk."[13]
  • Chesbro also says, "They want to take our water and then make us help pay for it."[13]
  • The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations[13]
  • Patricia Wiggins voted against putting the measure on the ballot. Wiggins says, "I have been strongly supportive of efforts to remove the dams on the Klamath River, which have wreaked havoc on salmon fisheries and other ecosystems downstream. While this bond would include $250 million to help take down those dams, I don't believe the financing should come at the expense of new dams that would harm communities in other parts of the state." She also says that it is "fiscally irresponsible" and that the money "should be spent directly on education, health care and other essential services, not debt payments."[13]


  • "Change to Win" has donated $1 million to the "Committee to Oppose Statewide Water Bonds".

Fiscal impact

According to the California Legislative Analyst's Office, repaying the bond would cost the state's general fund between $600 million and $800 million a year, for a total of $22 to $24 billion over 30 years.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer's spokesman Tom Dresslar said, "If we keep going down the road we're headed, debt service is going to devour more than 10 percent of general fund revenues in 2014-2015. That is unprecedented. We need to adopt a smarter, long-term approach to planning and financing infrastructure in this state."[4]

Polling information

See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures and Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • A poll, conducted by Tulchin Research and paid for opponents of the water bond, was taken of 600 likely voters in late January 2010. This poll had 55% of voters opposing the bond.[14],[15]


California Proposition 1 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Public Policy Institute of California
3/11/2014 - 3/18/2014
Public Policy Institute of California
7/8/2014 - 7/15/2014
The Field Poll
8/14/2014 - 8/28/2014
Lake Research Partners
8/26/2014 - 8/29/2014
Public Policy Institute of California
9/8/2014 - 9/15/2014
Hoover Institute Golden State Poll
10/3/2014 - 10/17/2014
Public Policy Institute of California
10/12/2014 - 10/19/2014
The Field Poll
10/15/2014 - 10/28/2014
USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll
10/22/2014 - 10/29/2014
AVERAGES 54.11% 25.89% 20% +/-3.68 1,358.44
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to


California Proposition 1 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Tulchin Research
1/20/2010 - 1/25/2010
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to

Path to the ballot

The motion to put the bond proposition on the November 2010 ballot was passed in the California State Senate and the California State Assembly on November 4, 2009. Dave Cogdill was the primary sponsor of the measure.

Members of the California State Senate approved it by a 28-8 vote and members of the California State Assembly approved putting it on the ballot by a 55-20 vote.

According to reporter John Howard of Capitol Weekly:

"Many pro-environment Democrats and pro-dam Republicans voted for the bond in a compromise culminating months of negotiations. Many expended political capital in supporting the patchwork proposal...'They had to bite hard on certain things. I know I did,' said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, agreed. 'There was a very tough set of issues. There were many legislators, myself included, who voted for this very reluctantly as part of a series of important compromises.'"[17]

Removals and postponements

2012 to 2014?

In January 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown said he thought the measure should be removed from the 2012 ballot and, instead, be placed on the 2014 ballot.[8]

He said, "I think they've got to take a hard look at that one". He also expressed the view that the state's lawmakers need to think about whether the bond proposal "really fits with what is absolutely needed" for water purposes in the state.[8]

State assemblyman Jared Huffman, the chair of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, says, "As written, this bond cannot pass in 2012 or any other year so my hope is – and the reality suggests – that we shouldn’t be seriously considering strategies to pass this particular bond, whether it is 2012, 2014 or 2020. To be viable, the revised bond will have to be leaner and greener."[5]

2010 to 2012

The effort to postpone the water bond from 2010 to 2012 began on June 29, 2010, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he was going to ask the California State Legislature to yank Proposition 18 from the November ballot. He needed a 2/3rds vote in the legislature to accomplish that objective. Schwarzenegger said he did not think Proposition 18 could win in 2010, which is why he wanted it off the ballot, with the objective of trying again in a different election season.[18] The state legislature had to vote by mid-August on the question of removing Proposition 18 from the ballot.[19],[17]

Options under consideration:

Although removing Proposition 18 from the 2010 ballot with the intention of putting it on the 2012 ballot was one option under consideration, there were others as well, which included:

  • Renegotiating the scope of the bond
  • Altering the priority and dollars amounts going to various projects if the bond is approved
  • Leaving Proposition 18 on the 2012 ballot but cutting the amount requested
  • Scraping it altogether.

Arguments for removal:

Paul Tebble of Friends of the River said, "The right thing to do is remove it entirely and redo it at a much lower amount. Water projects that only benefit a small number of people need to disappear."[17]

Jim Earp of the Alliance for Jobs said that his group has met with the governor to discuss removing the package from the ballot. The Alliance for Jobs is an organization whose members include contractors and construction workers. Earp said, "After discussion with the governor and legislative leadership, it was kind of the consensus, given the contentious political climate over the budget and a lot of other political issues floating around this November, to wait until the message on the water bond could be heard by voters."[17]

Lois Wolk, a California State Senator, said, "I think it should be repealed and revised, and let the new governor and Legislature consider it. The first question to ask is, ‘What is the purpose of this bond? If it is the restoration of the health of the delta, then we ought to focus on those projects that reduce the reliance of Southern California and the Bay Area on the delta. My feeling is there should be a narrowed bond, and we should combine that with the $4.1 billion in bonds that were authorized but not sold from Proposition 1E."[17]

For-profit ownership:

One part of the proposition under consideration for removal is a provision to allow private companies to own/control dams built with funds from the proposition.

The for-profit ownership clause says that joint-power authorities created with Proposition 18 month "may include in their membership governmental and nongovernmental partners that are not located within their respective hydrologic regions in financing the surface storage projects" and that these authorities would "own, govern, manage and operate a surface storage project."[20]

In arguing for this provision to be removed, Carolee Kreiger, president of the California Water Impact Network, said, "This is taxpayers subsidizing corporate agribusiness on the backs of teachers, firefighters, nurses and police."[20]

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information




  1. Los Angeles Times, "California water bond pushed back to 2012", August 10, 2010
  2. Los Angeles Times, "California Legislature pulls water bond measure off fall ballot", July 6, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 Business Week, "California Lawmakers Delay $11 Billion Water-Bond Measure", July 5, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Mercury News, "Californians asked to spend more during unprecedented spree of water spending", November 23, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Capitol Weekly, "For water, perilous economy is big player in November 2012", December 15, 2011
  6. Mercury News, "Another high-speed rail vote may be needed", January 19, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mercury News, "Let the water wars begin", December 22, 2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Los Angeles Times, "Jerry Brown says November water bond vote might need to be delayed", January 19, 2012
  9. Daily Democrat, "Water bond teeters, may be pulled from '12 ballot", March 29, 2012
  10. Sacramento Bee, "Senate committee votes to shift California water bond to 2014", July 2, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 San Francisco Chronicle, "Water bond offers nearly $2 billion in 'pork'", November 15, 2009
  12. San Francisco Chronicle, "Court slaps lawmakers for one-sided measure titles", January 28, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Lake County News, "North Coast legislators weigh in on state water package", November 27, 2009
  14. The Record.Net, "Opponents: poll shows water bond in trouble", February 20, 2010
  15. Sacramento Bee, "Excerpt of January 2010 Tulchin Research Poll on the Water Bond", February 8, 2010
  16. Public Policy Institute of California, "Californians And Their Government", March 2012
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Capitol Weekly, "Water bond’s ripples awash in the Capitol", July 15, 2010
  18. Los Angeles Times, "Schwarzenegger wants $11-billion water bond off the November ballot", June 30, 2010
  19. San Diego Union Tribune, "Water bond now on the bubble", July 19, 2010
  20. 20.0 20.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "Bill seeks to strike clause from water bond", June 19, 2010