California Water Issues
The LWVC Water Committee monitors and recommends action on issues concerning water in our state. The committee is always interested in learning about major water initiatives going forward around the state. Contact for more info: water *at* lwvc.org.
WATER: Finite Supplies, Competing Demands
Voters will continue to face large water-related expenditures in the coming years. Making informed decisions on these investments in managing California’s water resources is difficult, given unclear answers to key questions such as:
- How should limited and unpredictable freshwater supplies be allocated among competing municipal, industrial, agricultural, and environmental uses?
- Who is responsible and accountable for managing surface water and groundwater supplies and quality?
- How much will it cost to ensure safe and reliable supplies for a growing population and for damaged ecosystems?
- How will we pay to build new infrastructure and maintain aging infrastructure to deal with drought, flood risks, and climate fluctuations?
- Who should pay?
Since 1976, California's voters have passed 11 state-level bond measures totaling $15.215 billion. These bonds have funded projects intended to ensure stable supplies of drinking water, control floods, and protect the environment.
Water resources management processes underway
Allocation of water bond funds
Voters approved the most recent water bond, the $7.545 billion Proposition 1, in November 2015. This bond makes funding available for watershed restoration, conservation, recycling, groundwater recharge, and improving water quality for disadvantaged communities. The California Water Commission is responsible for deciding how $2.7 billion of the bond funding will be spent on public benefits associated with water storage. That evaluation process is ongoing.
Sustainable groundwater management
State legislation passed in 2014, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), requires local water managers throughout the state to develop plans to sustainably manage overdrafted aquifers. SGMA gives the State Water Resources Control Board authority to restrict groundwater pumping in subbasins that do not develop approved sustainability plans. See our 2016 Groundwater Update for more details.
Millions of urban water users around California and hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land rely on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Francisco Bay Estuary. Since 2007, efforts by state and federal water project contractors have been underway to ensure more reliable water deliveries while restoring collapsing ecosystems in the Delta and Estuary.
The original planning effort, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, was supplanted in 2015 by EcoRestore, a plan to deal with ecosystem issues, and WaterFix, the plan to build two 35-mile tunnels under the Delta to deliver Sacramento River water directly to export pumps.
The fate of WaterFix will be determined by
- environmental impacts of the tunnels project on the Delta and the Estuary
- willingness of the State Water Resources Control Board to approve new points in the north Delta for diverting water for export
- willingness and ability of agricultural and urban beneficiaries to pay for the cost of the project, estimated at about $16 billion excluding interest and any cost overruns.
Drinking Water: Ensuring Quality Water for All Californians
Online Water Encyclopedia from the Water Education Foundation
Aquapedia provides objective information on water in California.
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