The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) board this week threw its support behind a $7.5 billion water bond that will appear on the November statewide ballot. The bill may be a crucial step for the state to survive the continuing drought.
“In the midst of record drought and extraordinary public awareness of the dry conditions throughout California, the water bond couldn’t come at a more crucial time in state history,” said MWD board chairman Randy Record. “Proposition 1 will not only provide a fiscal foundation for the sustainable management of California’s water resources, funding from the bond’s passage will help improve and balance water supply reliability with ecosystem sustainability and restoration.”
The water bond has been a topic of debate in Sacramento for nearly five years. It was originally proposed as an $11.1 billion bond in 2009. After repeated delays and heated negotiations, the Legislature approved the significantly reduced $7.5 billion proposal last month.
Opponents of the bond contend it will sink the state deep into debt and cost the general fund $360 million a year for 40 years. They also contend the bond program will do little to help repair Southern California’s aging water infrastructure and will benefit primarily corporate agricultural interests.
MWD officials believe the bond would advance conservation programs and help prepare the state for future long-term droughts.
The MWD is a collective of 26 cities and water agencies in six counties, importing water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies.
Californians reportedly saved 17 billion gallons of water in July, enough to fill 26,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. The amount is still short of the 20-percent reduction called for by Gov. Jerry Brown, but it represents significant cutbacks in water use as the state struggles through the third year of the most expensive and devastating drought in modern history.
“Every action, from taking a shorter shower, to putting a lawn on a water diet, to replacing turf with drought-tolerant landscaping, contributes to every community’s water security,” said Felicia Marcus, chairperson of the water resources board.
The data released this week is the first monthly information on water use gathered by the state since it began this summer to require local water agencies to file monthly conservation reports. Overall, the water saved was enough to allow 1.7 billion residents to each take a five-minute shower, state officials said.
Residents of Northern California are conserving more than those in Southern California. The Bay Area slashed water use by 13 percent in July (compared with July 2013), while residents in Los Angeles and San Diego cut use by only 1.7 percent. Weather patterns, state officials pointed out, has allowed Los Angeles and San Diego to use less water per capita than other parts of the state—152 gallons a day in Los Angeles and 166 gallons per day in San Diego—compared with 279 gallons a day in Sacramento and 313 in Fresno. Although Sacramento appears to use more water than Los Angeles, the state capital has actually saved more water than any other city by cutting usage by 19.5 percent, according to the July figures.
The new numbers indicate that cities with mandatory water rationing, water cops, and fines for using more than the allotted amount demonstrated the most savings. In addition to the new reporting rules, the state water board voted in July to require water providers to limit the days when people could water laws and to ban wasteful watering practices. The new rules permitted fines of up to $500, although most cities and water agencies have opted not to issue monetary penalties for violations.