In November of 2014, drought weary voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. As part of this important effort, Prop 1 included $2.7 billion for water storage projects to increase the State’s ability to capture and store additional water supplies. More than three years later, we are no closer to seizing this golden opportunity.
The California Water Commission sent shockwaves through the water world when they recently announced an initial analysis finding none of the 11 proposed projects are currently fully eligible to receive funds. According to Commission staff, half the projects were found to have no public benefits and the rest fell well short of what project proponents estimated. However, there is still an opportunity for applicants to appeal their initial scores and we hope staff will listen.
The opportunity to fund and eventually build water storage infrastructure comes at a crucial time. Scientists and water managers continue to project changing climate patterns, including more precipitation coming as rain and less as winter snowpack. In addition, unpredictable dry spells continue to plague California. These changing weather realities make building additional water storage even more crucial. Capturing excess water when it is available and saving it for times of drought makes sense to everyone. The legislature and voters were perfectly clear that additional water storage was a priority.
California’s water problems are significant enough, without a bunch of bureaucrats setting up unnecessary hurdles and hoops for water managers to jump over and through. The need for additional water storage remains urgent. Governor Brown and the State’s elected leadership need to make sure the California Water Commission does its job and implements the will of 67 percent of California voters who supported Proposition 1. Policy makers must not allow this golden opportunity to be wasted.