For the state of California, water is an invaluable resource. So much so, that California has passed eight statewide bond measure since 1996 on water alone. Prop 3 will be the ninth.
Prop 3 authorizes $8.9 billion in the form of general obligation (GO) bonds to fund various water infrastructure projects around California. The projects will help the environment, water storage, and water safety.
A GO bond is like an I.O.U. that the state of California gives to a company for work. The state then pays back the debt from the general fund, which is revenue from tax dollars.
Most projects are funded by local government agencies to provide clean water to residents, water to irrigate crops, and flood protection. The majority of the money spent by local governments is paid by residents when they pay their water and sewer bills, but the state will also offer grants and loans to local government agencies to pay part of the costs.
Prop 3 lays out how the $8.9 billion in bonds is to be spent in six broad categories. The categories are Watershed lands, water supply, fish and wildlife habitat, water facility upgrades, groundwater, and flood protection.
$2.4 billion is set aside for protecting, restoring, and improving the watershed lands to increase the amount and quality of water.
$2.1 billion is set aside to increase the amount of water that the people of California have access to. The sources include gathering and cleaning rainwater, improving the quality of drinking water, and recycling wastewater. This category of the bill also sets aside $300 million specifically for water conservation.
$1.4 billion shall be set aside to fish and wildlife habitats improvement and preservation. This covers projects like bringing more water into a system that would have had it before human intervention. This money will also be spent to buy unowned land to keep it in its natural state.
$1.2 billion dollars shall be set aside specifically for four projects to upgrade Water Facilities. These projects include repairing federal Madera and Friant-Kern canals, building more canals to better connect reservoirs to communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, repairing the Oroville Dam located in Butte County, and planning the changes to the North Bay Aqueduct.
$1.1 billion will be reserved for groundwater preservation. The projects include cleaning and recharging the groundwater. Recharging groundwater is when water is helped to soak into the ground.
$500 million will be for projects to reduce the risk of flooding. One of the projects will be for expanding floodplains so that the floodwaters have a place to go so they won’t cause as much damage to humans. The other projects will include repairing reservoirs to help improve wildlife around and in those reservoirs and allow them to hold more water for the communities they serve.
The funding shall mostly be distributed through grants to many different state departments. Departments that receive the grants would have to pay matching funds. This matching funding does not apply for disadvantaged communities.
Prop 3 will affect some greenhouse gas laws. Companies and government agencies have to buy a permit to release greenhouse gasses.
The bill requires the state to spend a portion of the funds to the State Department of Water Resources, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Contra Costa Water District, and the San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority. The Funding will be equal to the additional electricity costs associated with water conservation programs of the four water agencies listed above.
This is bill will generate $17.3 billion in debt, $8.9 billion initially and $8.4 billion in interest. This sum would be paid back, with tax dollars, to the sum of $430 million annually. Paying back at this rate it would take 40 years to fully pay off prop 3.
Prop 3’s goal is to have the savings in water for communities, local and state governments outweigh the debt generated by the bill. A bill that would pay back itself.