Legislature Replaces Water Bond on November Ballot, Renumbers ‘Rainy Day Fund’ Measure

With no policy committee hearings, and only mock-up language of the bill in hand, both houses of the Legislature on August 13 approved a $7.5 billion water bond for the November ballot (AB 1471, Rendon). Within 30 minutes of receiving the bill, Governor Jerry Brown signed it. “We’ve got a real water bond – and we’ve got Democrats and Republicans that are more unified than I’ve ever seen – probably in my life,” Governor Brown said.

The legislation passed the Senate unanimously, and was approved by the Assembly 77-2, with Assemblymen Tim Donnelly and Wes Chesbro opposed.

The fanfare and signing ceremony came after ongoing closed-door negotiations. On Tuesday, the governor met with more than two dozen representatives from agricultural, water, environmental, labor and business groups. The governor issued a press release with a photo of the meeting, and stated that the stakeholders were calling for action on a water bond – even though, at the time, not all of those at the meeting table supported the governor’s plan.

Reports on the behind-the-scenes negotiations indicated that environmentalists were asking for additional funds for conservation, fish and wildlife protection and ecosystem restoration; urban water agencies sought more funding for stormwater management and water quality improvements; and agricultural interests sought to increase water storage and water capacity throughout California’s state and local water systems.

The bond measure consists of three basic elements – $3.6 billion for water-related environmental protection, $3.425 billion for water storage and recycling; and $520 million for water quality improvements. (For a list of authorized bond expenditures, see the chart below.)

The bond measure replaces the $11 billion water bond (Proposition 43) that had been placed on the ballot as a result of a prior Legislature’s bipartisan negotiations. In 2009, the Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger placed the bond on the November 2010 ballot, but subsequent legislation moved it to the 2012 ballot, and then it was postponed again to 2014. According to media commentary and statements from supporters of the new bond, public support for the original bond measure declined over time due to perception that it was too expensive and full of “pork.”

Throughout much of the year, Governor Brown and legislative leaders publicly agreed on one thing – the bond should be reduced in size to give it a better chance of winning voter approval.

As part of the legislation replacing the water bond, the Legislature also specified that the ballot designation for the new bond will be Proposition 1, and that the rainy day fund measure previously designated Proposition 44 now will be Proposition 2.

According to KQED senior editor John Myers: “The two measures, one almost universally lauded (enhanced budget reserve fund) and one not at all universally lauded (water), now will be symbolically linked at the top of the ballot. They will, backers hope, stand out from Propositions 45 through 48 when a voter scans the fall ballot.”






Water Quality Improvement:1


Wastewater Treatment Projects

Provides grants for wastewater treatment facilities to address public health hazards, or to consolidate regional wastewater systems or provide affordable treatment technologies. “Disadvantaged communities” will be given priority.

$260 million

Drinking Water Improvements

Provides grants and loans for public water system infrastructure improvements to ensure systems meet safe drinking water standards. Priority is given to “disadvantaged communities” and small community water systems. A single construction project shall not exceed $5 million, unless the project is providing a regional benefit to multiple water systems, in which case the project shall not exceed $20 million.

$260 million


$520 million

Environmental Protection:2

Local Water Quality, Water Supply, and Watershed Protection

Provides funding to the following for the purposes of multi-benefit water quality, water supply and watershed protection and restoration projects for the watersheds of the state: Baldwin Hills Conservancy ($10 million), California Tahoe Conservancy ($15 million), Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy ($10 million), Ocean Protection Council ($30 million), San Diego River Conservancy ($17 million), San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy ($30 million), San Joaquin River Conservancy ($10 million), Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy ($30 million), Sierra Nevada Conservancy ($25 million), State Coastal Conservancy ($100.5 million), Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy ($50 million).

$327.5 million

Improved Stream Flows

Provides funds to the Wildlife Conservation Board to administer projects that result in enhanced stream flows.

$200 million

Urban Creeks

Authorizes the Legislature to appropriate funds for urban creek enhancements.

$100 million

Water Runoff

Provides funds for the secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to fund a competitive program to address watershed and urban river enhancement projects and runoff water treatment.

$20 million

Watershed Restoration

Provides funds to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for watershed restoration, including coastal wetlands, habitat improvements, and fisheries restoration. All funds shall be spent outside of the Delta.

$285 million

Delta Restoration

Provides funds to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for water quality, ecosystem restoration, and fish protection facilities that benefit the Delta.

$87.5 million

State Settlements and Agreements

Provides funds for the state to comply with existing settlements and agreements previously approved by the Legislature, including the Tahoe Regional Planning Commission, San Joaquin River Chinook Salmon protection, restoration of the Salton Sea, the Colorado River agreement, and an agreement between Oregon, California and the federal government to remove a dam on the Klamath River.

$475 million

California Water Plan3

Provides for regional watershed plans, in compliance with the California Water Plan.

$510 million

Stormwater Management3

Provides funding for grants for “green infrastructure,” rainwater and stormwater capture projects and stormwater treatment facilities.

$200 million

Water Conservation Grants and Loans3

Provides funding for grants and loans administered by the Department of Water Resources to improve urban water conservation plans, projects and programs, including assistance to water suppliers to implement efficiency standards.

$100 million

Groundwater Sustainability

Provides for funding, upon appropriation by the Legislature, of grants and loans to projects that clean up contamination of groundwater used as a drinking source.

$900 million

Flood Management

Provides funding to the Department of Water Resources and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for statewide flood management projects.

$395 million


$3.6 billion

Water Storage and Recycling:

Water Storage

Continuously appropriates funds to the California Water Commission for purposes of improving the operation of state water systems.

$2.7 billion

Water Recycling

Provides funding, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to water recycling and advanced treatment projects, including salt water desalination.

$725 million





$3.425 billion


  1. Water quality improvement may provide funding for removal of nitrates, hexavalent chromium, bromide, iron, uranium and other contaminants from water systems. 10 percent of the available water quality funds shall be allocated to “severely disadvantaged communities.”
  2. Environmental protection funds are to be used for improving fisheries or ecosystem benefits or improvements.
  3. Funds shall provide water infrastructure that are adaptable to climate change, including sea-level rise. Funds shall also promote water reuse, water efficiency, surface and underground water storage, water desalination, and watershed protection. 


August 18, 2014

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