Democrats in the California legislature are moving ahead with SB 848,a $7 billion water bond that focuses almost entirely on water treatment and preparation for climate change, and ignores water storage. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Lois Wolk, is one of three water bond bills currently before the state legislature (two Democrat, one Republican), yet it is the only one to win passage from a legislative committee thus far.
The Governance and Finance Committee approved Wolk’s bill on a 5-2 party-line vote last week, and sent it on to the Appropriations Committee for further consideration. Conservative critics have pounced on the bill saying it “promotes junk science and union payoffs.” Republican opposition to the bill has stiffened, though there is little that the GOP can do to stop it, given the fact that Democrats are in complete control of the legislature.
The Association of California Water Agencies has specifically opposed the bill, noting that “it would dramatically reduce funding for water storage and Delta sustainability compared to the current version of the bond now set for the November 2014 ballot….SB 848 also fails to provide for continuous appropriation for storage, creating uncertainty for expanded water storage needed to improve water supply reliability.”
California remains in the midst of one of its worst droughts in a century, with little changed despite heavy rains over the weekend that caused mudslides and forced evacuations in some mountainside regions. The state has largely declined to invest in new water storage capacity in recent years, focusing instead on conservation and recycling, and redirecting scarce water resources away from agriculture and towards restoring fish habitat.