by Wayne Lusvardi | November 4, 2014 11:47 am
Proposition 1 on today’s ballot marks the first time in 50 years California has proposed building at least two new major dams and reservoirs. If voters concur, by 2023 dams would be built with the $7.5 billion water bond.
An important consideration is how the 21 previous water bonds issued since 1970 have fared. That’s when the State Water Project was completed. Over that 44-year time span, California has spent $32 billion (in 2010 dollars) on water projects funded by water bonds.
What have been the benefits?
The problem is that California does not keep any centralized database of program effectiveness and accountability to determine how much existing water was conserved or recycled, nor how much new water was developed.
The State Department of Finance issues a Bond Accountability Report, but it mainly deals with financial audits and not program effectiveness. According to Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, state bonds are mostly slush funds that serve as blank checks with no metrics as to how much water was saved or produced.
A compilation of the 21 state water bonds issued since 1979, together with a timeline of water improvement projects completed (see table and timeline below), indicates the following:
In sum, about 352,530 acre-feet of water since 1970 were added to the state water system funded by state water bonds, most of it invisible groundwater, at a cost of $32 billion.
During that period, California’s population has nearly doubled, from 19.95 million to 38.33 million, for an increase of 18.38 million.
Assuming that an acre-foot of water supports two households per year; and the average California household size is 3 persons. Then California has added about 14.9 gallons of water per day for each additional new person added to the population since 1970.
However, each person generally uses about 149 gallons of water per day.
So California has only produced about 1/10 (14.9 gallons) of the water needed to support its added population since 1970 (149 gal./14.9 gal.).
Yet it still has paid for its 21 water bonds at an unbelievable cost of $9,204 per acre-foot of water ($32,448,000,000/352,520 = $9,204/acre foot installed).
There is an old saying, “You can’t squeeze water from a stone.” Likewise, history indicates California squeezes little measurable water out of so-called state water bonds.
California General Obligation Water Bonds from 1979 to Present
|Year||Title||Base Amount (millions)||In 2010 Dollars (millions)||Timeline Major Events & Projects & Added Water|
|2008||Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply,Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Prop. 84)||$5,388||$5,777||2013-14 Epic Drought|
|2008||Disaster Preparedness and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Prop. 1E)||$4,090||$4,388||2007 State Water Project Shutdown for Fish|
|2002||Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002 (Prop. 50)||$3,440||$4,372|
|2002||California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002 (Prop. 40)||$2,600||$3,308||2001 Klamath Project Irrigation Crisis|
|2000||Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2000 (Prop. 12)||$2,100||$2,805||Prop. 13 306,727 new acre-feet of groundwater developed|
|2000||Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, Watershed Protection and Flood Protection Act (Prop. 13)||$1,970||$2,632||1998 Los Vaqueros Dam; 0 acre-feet|
|1996||Safe, Clean, Reliable Water Supply Act (Prop. 204)||$995||$1,471||1995 Diamond Vly. Lake; 0-acre feet|
|1988||Clean Water and Water Reclamation Bond Law of 1988 (Prop. 83)||$65||$120||1989 MWD & Imperial Irrigation District agreement|
|1988||Water Conservation Bond Law of 1988 (Prop. 82||$60||$110||1989 New Spicers Dam; O acre-feet|
|1988||California Wildlife, Coastal, and Park Land Conservation Act (Prop. 70)||$776||$1,427|
|1988||California Safe Drinking Water Bond Law of 1988(Prop. 81)||$75||$138|
|1986||California Safe Drinking Water Bond Law of 1986 (Prop. 55)||$100||$193|
|1986||Water Conservation and Water Quality Bond Law of 1986 (Prop. 44)||$150||$290|
|1984||Fish and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Act of 1984 (Prop. 19)||$85||$170|
|1984||Clean Water Bond Law of 1984 (Prop. 28)||$325||$651|
|1984||California Safe Drinking Water Bond Law of 1984 (Prop. 25)||$75||$150||1983 Warm Springs Dam – only serves Sonoma Co.; 0 acre-feet|
|1982||Lake Tahoe Acquisitions Bond Act (Prop. 4)||$85||$185||1982 Peripheral Canal Defeated|
|1978||Clean Water and Water Conservation Bond Law of 1978 (Prop. 2)||$375||$1,123||1978 New Melones Dam U.S. Govt.; Now green dam; 0 acre-feet|
|1976||California Safe Drinking Water Bond Law of 1976 (Prop. 3)||$175||$606||1977-78 Severe Drought;Calif. Ground Water Bulletin 1975|
|1974||Clean Water Bond Law of 1974 (Prop. 2)||$250||$1,028||1973 First Deliveries of State Water Project to So. Calif.|
|1970||Clean Water Bond Law of 1970 (Prop. 1)||$250||$1,504|
|Source: California Water Plan 2014 – Chapter 7 – Financial Planning Framework (go to California Water Plan, Chapter 7 – Financial Planning Framework, Page 7-23, California General Obligation Bonds from 1970 to Present). Table of Contents for California Water Plan is here).||Source: California Water Timeline|
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