Mark Gold writes: After five years of debate and in the midst of a record drought, a long awaited state water bond will finally be decided on November 4th. LA could benefit significantly if Proposition 1 passes.
The greater Los Angeles area has 25 percent of the state's population and tremendous water supply, water quality, and watershed protection needs. But we have a history of not getting our fair share from previous water bond funds. So we'll need strong efforts from our local legislators--by Kevin de León, the new president pro-tempore of the state Senate--to ensure LA benefits this time. Mayor Eric Garcetti, our local congressional representatives, water agency leaders, environmental leaders, unions and trades, and a majority of the County Board of Supervisors, will need to stand up for our fair share.
As the measure reads now, I believe the LA region could receive from $750 million to $1 billion if local leaders make a coordinated effort to ensure that funding comes to local, sustainable, and resilient water management and watershed protection efforts here in Southern California.
Our current drought has put a glaring hot spotlight on the need to change California water management. If passed, the $7.12 billion Proposition 1, authored by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, will join a recently approved groundwater law, championed by Senator Fran Pavley, a new law incentivizing stormwater recapture for water supply (also authored by Rendon), the California Water Action Plan, and the State Water Resources Control Board's drought response package, as critically important steps toward more sustainable water management in the Golden State.
However, the water bond will take years to spend and is not a panacea for our immediate water management problems. In fact, it looks like it could suffer from the same lack of performance-based oversight that hampered more than $13 billion in previous water bond spending. The end result of all that spending has been a lot of good projects and a lot of mediocre projects, but together, these well intended efforts have not added up to a far more sustainable, green infrastructure approach across the state.
That said, there are numerous categories of funding for the LA region in the current bond proposal that would help fund critical local projects. To provide local, sustainable water supplies, there is $725 million for water recycling, nearly $100 million for local integrated water management projects, $200 million for stormwater capture and infiltration management planning and projects, and $900 million for cleaning up contaminated groundwater to augment local groundwater supplies. In addition, there is $500 million for clean, safe, and reliable drinking water in disadvantaged communities like many of those in the south San Joaquin Valley. Some parts of the LA region with contaminated groundwater could be eligible for those funds as well. For watershed protection and restoration, the bond measure contains $70 million for our local Santa Monica Mountains, Baldwin Hills, and river conservancies. And we could be eligible for a portion of the $585 million in Department of Resources funds for watershed restoration and river enhancement. In addition, the LA region is well qualified to receive a major portion of the $120 million for enhancing or restoring urban rivers. In fact, most of the water bond provides funding opportunities for the region--except for the $2.7 billion earmarked for water supply storage. I wouldn't expect much if any of that to be spent south of the Tehachipis.
Proposition 1 could definitely help contribute to the LA region achieving more sustainable water management in the near future, especially in conjunction with more local funding through water rate increases, a county-wide stormwater fee, and more aggressive water conservation efforts, But will local leadership come together and make a compelling case for the entire region as one? And will they get behind the additional funding measures needed to modernize and green our water infrastructure? In the past, local governments and local resource management agencies competed against each other for bond funds, and in the end we didn't get our fair share in the LA region. This time, we can't afford to make that mistake.