Ballot Measure to Force California to Build Water Infrastructure Lacks Funding, Signatures

Old faucet with water leaking drop to the ground.
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A proposed ballot measure to require the State of California to spend 2% of its annual budget on expanding water infrastructure has been dropped after failing to raise enough money or gather enough signatures.

The measure was motivated by the ongoing California drought, and the state’s failure to spend on building reservoirs or expanding desalination plants. It was opposed by environmentalists, who favor enforced conservation over expanding water supplies.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday:

The initiative would require that 2% of California’s general fund, or about $4 billion, be set aside every year to expand water supplies. Those could include new dams and reservoirs, desalination plants, recycled water plants and other projects such as upgrading canals and pipes. The measure also would streamline permitting for those projects.

But the campaign has failed to gain momentum and is far short of the nearly 1 million signatures needed by the end of April to qualify for the ballot.

Organizers say to have any chance, they must raise $10 million by Feb. 1 to hire paid signature gatherers and ramp up efforts. As of Wednesday, they had raised only $165,000, nearly all of it from Central Valley farmers.

Supporters of the measure, who include farmers, desalination advocates and several Southern California water agencies, say California has not built enough new reservoirs, desalination plants and other water projects in recent decades because there are too many delays, too many lawsuits and too much red tape.

California will receive $45.5 billion from President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, one of the lowest per capita grants of any state. A relatively small amount of that, $3.5 billion, is to be spent on upgrading the state’s water systems.

The state has not completed a new reservoir since 1979, though Contra Costa County completed the local Los Vaqueros Reservoir in 1998. State water authorities approved more funding for the proposed Sites Reservoir last year, but progress is slow. The only major desalination facilities are in San Diego County and Santa Barbara, amid opposition from environmental groups, who object to the large amount of energy that is expended in the process, and the pumping of salty brine water out to sea.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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