Proposition 1 To Authorize Billions for Calif.'s Water Infrastructure

Author: Steve Baker
Created: 22 October, 2014
Updated: 15 October, 2022
3 min read

After three years of drought, Proposition 1 will authorize $7.12 billion and reallocate $425 million of unused bonds to support water quality, storage, treatment, and supply through the development of a better supply infrastructure. The sale of general obligation (GO) bonds will fund the proposition’s projects only after a majority vote since each bond requires “full faith and credit” and an increase in taxes in order to repay.

The drought, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is a symptom of reduced snow-pack that normally feeds runoffs which in turn becomes useable groundwater -- the implications of which affects crop yields, livestock, and potentially consumers, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Proposition 1 will allow for the implementation and testing of pipelines, canals, and storage centers to support these needs. Ratified by the Assembly and the State Senate on August 13, 2014, AB1471 -- or Proposition 1 -- was brokered by Governor Brown as part of his Water Action Plan.

Within the California's state legislature, votes in favor of the proposition were nearly unanimous across party lines with the only opposition from two assemblymen, Wesley Chesboro (D-Eureka) and Tim Donnelly (R-Hesperia). Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) highlighted the bipartisan nature of the bill in a comment to the Desert Sun.

"The pitch now is you've got a united front. You got Northern, Central, South. You got Republicans, you got Democrats. You've got the Senate leadership, the Assembly leadership- both, you know, Republican and Democrat- and you got the governor."

Individuals such as Sean Parker (co-founder of Napster) and organizations like the California Farm Bureau Federation have contributed funding over $150,000 on average for the support of Proposition 1 -- totaling $6.6 million. The opposition’s contributors, such as the Jack Klein Partnership, have raised considerably less money with most donations averaging under $5,000 and totaling $71,000, as reported by Ballotpedia.

Arguments in Favor

  • Allocates resources for critical water infrastructure
  • Expands water storage
  • Helps the state prepare for future drought years
  • Provides funding for clean drinking water in contaminated areas

Arguments Against

  • Wastes taxpayer dollars on pet projects and special interests
  • Primarily benefits corporate farmers
  • Offers no incentives to wean off of water-heavy crops like berries and nuts which strain the system.
  • Doesn't place new restrictions on industrial practices that require large quantities of water like hydraulic fracturing.

Across many major Californian metropolitan areas approval remains only slight, with San Francisco and the Inland Empire at the highest -- 64 percent and 62 percent, respectively. Other areas, such as the Central Valley, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, hover between 51 percent to 55 percent approval.

PPIC Poll: Would you vote yes or no on Proposition 1?

Currently, the ballot measure has the support of 58 percent of likely voters with 29 percent against and 14 percent undecided, as reported by the

Public Policy Institute of California.*

IVP Existence Banner

During the PPIC’s survey, participants were asked whether or not the sale of bonds would affect voter opinion. Sixty-seven percent affirmed a yes vote regardless of an added bond measure to the ballot.

Financially, the sale of $7.1 billion in GO bonds will cost taxpayers $360 million a year for the next 40 years. The drought has cost the state millions in lost revenue with lost farm revenues ($810), livestock and dairy loses ($203), and increased pumping fees ($454). The sale of bonds will reduce the cost of water-related projects for local governments, determined by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Yes or no Californians will determine how California’s most vital resource, water, is handled. The burden that remains on voters’ shoulders is whether or not the expenditure now is worth the price later.

*Editor's note: The numbers quoted are an accurate representation of the PPIC report. PPIC, to our knowledge, has not updated its survey since publication. 

Photo Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock.com