Yes on Proposition One

Several subscribers approached me at Farm Day to ask my opinion on Proposition 1 — the water bond on the November ballot — and suggest I write about it in the newsletter.  So here goes.

Unless and until we pass a ballot measure limiting population growth in our state — which I am neither endorsing nor suggesting — California needs more water for humans and our enterprises, including agriculture.  There are several ways to get that water, but no single one of them is going to suffice.  And all of them are going to take lots of money.  Proposition 1 would provide money for conservation, efficiency, and new storage projects all over the state.

Surface water from dams and reservoirs provides 40-60% of the water used in California annually, depending on whether it is a wet  or dry year.  There are plenty of people who are 100% opposed to building new dams or reservoirs.  Many, if not most, of them, live in urban areas like San Francisco or Los Angeles that get 100% of their water from…wait for it…reservoirs.

Southern California has built several new reservoirs in the last twenty years, but only one has been built in Northern California.  Meanwhile, the natural reservoir that is the Sierra snowpack is becoming less reliable each year that average temperatures continue to rise due to climate change.

Global Warming is the single biggest reason why we need to add more water storage.  More and more of the precipitation that falls on California will come in short, intense bursts.  When it is rain, it runs off.  In wet weather cycles, once existing reservoirs are full, that water simply washes away without even recharging the groundwater.  We are entering a climate where we will need to store more water for longer periods to avoid a water crisis like the one being caused by our current drought.

Some people talk about agriculture needing to use less water.  But on-farm conservation practices can only go so far, and have been implemented on millions of acres of farmland already.  Meanwhile, most water is delivered to farms and cities via 20th century conveyances owned and maintained by local water districts.  Old and inefficient, they need to be modernized and improved.

An example:  The pipeline connecting San Francisco to Hetch Hetchy dam is known to be leaking hundreds of millions of gallons of water each year, but the SF Municipal Utility District doesn’t have the money to replace it with a new one.  Similar situations exist with water districts all over the state in places that have far fewer people and far less money for new infrastructure.  These are exactly the types of problems that publicly funded bonds were created to solve.

Our state needs a reliable, modern, and adequate water supply for everyone: homeowners, businesses, and farmers.  It’s an issue that everyone should be able to agree upon.  I urge you to vote yes on Prop. 1.

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