By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun
California voters will be voting on a water conservation bond initiative this Election Day.
Proposition 3, the Water Infrastructure and water Conservation Bond Initiative, would authorize $8.877 billion in general obligation bonds for water infrastructure, groundwater supplies and storage, surface water storage and dam repairs, watershed and fisheries improvement, and habitat protection and restoration.
The total cost, after interest, over a 40-year period will equal $17.3 billion.
A total of $2.355 billion will go toward protection of watershed lands and non-profits. An additional $500 million is intended for public water system infrastructure improvements for treatment of contaminants and assurance of affordable drinking water.
The initiative will require that $1.398 billion be spent on projects benefiting what the State defines as “disadvantaged communities” – those that have a median household income of less than 80 percent of the state average, which currently rests at $63,783. Another $2.637 billion is to be prioritized for these communities.
Prop 3 is not the first bond initiative proposed to California voters in recent years. Prop 68, the Parks, Environment, and Water Bond was approved by voters in June 2018 and allocated $250 million to clean drinking water and drought programs. The bond measure included several million more dollars dedicated to watershed protection and various restoration activities.
In addition, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 allocated $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds to “fund ecosystems and watershed protection and restoration, water supply infrastructure projects, including surface and groundwater storage, and drinking water protection,” according to the California Natural Resources Agency.
The agency also states that $520 million was dedicated to clean, safe and reliable drinking water, with a remaining balance of over $38 million.
Prop 3’s largest financial supporters include Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association, California Wildlife Foundation Vesta Fund, American Pistachio Growers, and the California Fresh Fruit Association.
Opponents of the measure claim that the measure is a “pay-to-play” scheme funded by organizations that will receive a portion of the funds. Supporters claim that the measure will directly benefit communities of the Central Valley by providing clean water and aging water infrastructure.
Proposition 3 will appear on California voters’ ballots on Election Day: Tuesday, November 6.