Proposition 3: Authorizes Bonds to Fund Projects for Water Supply and Quality, Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Water Conveyance, and Groundwater Sustainability and Storage.

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The Question: 

Should the State sell $8.9 billion in bonds to fund projects related to water supply and quality, watershed and fisheries restoration, habitat protection, water conveyance and groundwater sustainability and storage?

The Situation: 

California’s water supply faces challenges. The amount and location of available water varies widely from year to year. Unusually wet or dry years can result in local flooding or water shortages. Water may be polluted and unsuitable for any use.

Various government agencies in California spend about $30 billion annually in the water sector. Over three-quarters of that is spent locally and largely paid for by individual ratepayers for water and sewage treatment plants and cleanup of storm runoff. The State and Federal government play a role by creating regional water supply infrastructure and by setting and enforcing water quality standards.

Over the past 17 years voters have approved $31 billion in general obligation bonds for various natural resource projects, including $4.1 billion from Prop. 68 in June 2018. The State has several billion dollars available from those measures, mostly to be used for water quality, supply and infrastructure purposes authorized by Proposition 1 in 2014. The principal and interest on general obligation bonds are repaid from the State’s General Fund, usually over 40 years.

The Proposal: 

This measure authorizes $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds for various water-related programs and projects. The proposition’s broad spending categories include:

  • Water supply and quality - $ 2.1 billion;
  • Fish and wildlife habitat $1.4 billion;
  • Water facility upgrades for specific projects in the Central Valley, Bay Area, and Oroville Dam,  - $1.2 billion;
  • Groundwater recharge and storage projects - $1.1 billion;
  • Watershed lands improvement - $2.5 billion

Most funds will be distributed as grants to agencies that must provide equal matching funds. The measure provides reduced cost-sharing requirements for projects benefitting disadvantaged communities.

Fiscal Effect: 

Bond repayment is expected to cost the State an estimated $17.3 billion over 40 years. The effect on local governments will depend on the size of any grant received. Savings are recognized because a grant reduces the local share of a project’s cost.  However, a project could also increase future operating costs, such as for a new desalination facility. The annual net effect on local governments and ratepayers is likely to be small.

What a YES or NO Vote Means
A YES Vote Means: 

The state could sell $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund various water and environmental projects.

A NO Vote Means: 

The state could not sell $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund various water and environmental projects.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 
  • Proposition 3 will fund projects to help increase water supply from a variety of sources such as storm water capture and desalination.
  • It will help insure that disadvantaged communities can access safe drinking water.
  • Watershed restoration will improve water quality and protect agricultural interests.
Opponents Say: 
  • We need more dams to collect rain and snow melt from the Sierras.  Proposition 3 provides no money for new dams.
  • It panders to special interests by making recreation and wildlife a priority over farmers.
  • Paying back these new bonds will result in raised taxes.