Loss of local control a big issue in new water tax fight

Shower head water droughtThroughout his tenure as governor, Jerry Brown has consistently pursued new revenue for transportation, housing and water. The Legislature, whose default reaction to any problem is to raise taxes on middle-class Californians, has only been too happy to oblige. As a result, California drivers were hit last year with an annual $5 billion gas and car tax and property owners were burdened with a new tax on real estate recording documents to fund affordable housing. As if those tax hikes were not bad enough, now comes the third in a trifecta of tax insults: a new tax on water used by homes and businesses. That’s right, the Legislature is preparing to tax a public good that is essential to life, a precedent-setting tax that is unheard of anywhere else in the nation.

Supporters of the bill will argue that the tax is needed because roughly one million people (mostly in the Central Valley) don’t have access to consistently clean drinking water. This is a legitimate problem due to decades of neglecting basic infrastructure, contamination of water supplies and the failure to make access to water delivery the priority it deserves.

But raising taxes is the wrong solution to this problem. It is unconscionable that California, which has a record-high $130 billion General Fund budget with a $6 billion surplus, can’t provide clean drinking water to a million people using existing resources. Is this not the first role of government, providing a public good essential to life? Moreover, why should taxpayers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento have to pay higher water bills for a problem that is mostly limited to groundwater contamination in the Central Valley?

Most Californians haven’t even heard of this proposed tax hike. But that’s only because the Legislature is going out of its way to keep it hidden. Originally introduced as Senate Bill 623, the bill failed to advance last year because of widespread opposition. Nearly all residential homeowners would pay a dollar a month if this tax went through. The tax works on a sliding scale based on meter size — heavy commercial and industrial water users could pay up to $10/month. Not content to just abandon the bill, the governor has now decided to drop this tax in a budget trailer bill. These bills, often dozens of pages long with multiple topics, is the perfect place to hide a tax. If the bill moves forward, taxpayer advocates will watch carefully to ensure that the two-thirds vote requirement for tax hikes is enforced. Because most budget bills only need a majority vote, a lawsuit will quickly follow if the higher threshold is not met.

Our concern is that the governor has become so obsessed playing the “hide the tax” game that he hasn’t bothered to look at other alternative funding sources to solve this problem. If using a $6 billion surplus is off the table, there’s an option to tap into federal funding which is available for precisely this purpose. Or there are billions of dollars of unspent bond funds, including the recently voter-approved Propositions 1 and 84 that can be used to provide clean drinking water. Bond dollars are perhaps the best vehicle to provide major infrastructure improvements needed in the Central Valley. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Allowing Markets To Allocate Water Can Stave Off “Day Zero” in California

Drought water cropsCape Town, South Africa, a city of 450,000 in a metropolitan area of 3.7 million, is experiencing a catastrophic drought. Capetonians have been dreading the arrival of July 9, or “Day Zero”— when taps in private homes will be switched off and residents will have to go to collection points for rationed allotments of water.

Some version of Day Zero could one day come to parts of California, where water woes continue to bedevil government officials and citizens. From 2011 to 2015, the state experienced the driest four-year period in recorded history (though geologic evidence indicates there have been worse droughts in the past). A robust rainy season in 2017 replenished many reservoirs, but the winter of 2018 has been dry. As of February 1, the snowpack, which provides much of the state’s water during the dry season, was only 21 percent of its normal size. The 2011–2015 drought led Governor Jerry Brown to mandate a 25 percent reduction in water use, but mandating it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Mandated reductions that require homeowners to spend money and time irrigating with non-potable water and replacing old toilets are unlikely to meet their targets, given the low nominal cost of water.

A number of remedies have been suggested, one of which is to allow markets, rather than politics, to allocate water. At a recent conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, scholars focused on the importance of market signals in getting people to change their behavior in the face of climate uncertainty. Economist Gary Libecap noted that when prices signal the real value of water, they encourage “agricultural users to switch to water-saving irrigation technologies or to water-saving crops.” (Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of California’s water consumption.) The same is true for urban users, who pay much more per unit of water than agricultural users.

In the absence of water markets, prices don’t reflect the full cost of using this precious resource, resulting in inefficient use. The best example: organic farming. Organic agriculture produces lower yields than traditional agriculture and uses disproportionately more inputs—especially low-cost, high-value water. Lower yields in organic farming mean less output per unit of water used.

Plant pathologist Steve Savage analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 Organic Survey, which measures productivity from most of the nation’s certified organic farms, and compared them with those at conventional farms, crop-by-crop and state-by-state. His findings are extraordinary: of the 68 crops surveyed, organic farms showed a “yield gap”—poorer performance—in 59. Many of the shortfalls were large: organic strawberries yielded 61 percent less than conventional farms; fresh tomatoes, 61 percent less; tangerines, 58 percent less; cotton, 45 percent less; rice, 39 percent less; peanuts, 37 percent less. “To have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014 would have required farming of 109 million more acres of land,” Savage concludes. “That is an area equivalent to all the parkland and wildland areas in the lower 48 states, or 1.8 times as much as all the urban land in the nation.”

One reason that inefficient organic agriculture uses more water is that it excludes the cultivation of crop varieties crafted with molecular genetic-modification techniques—so-called GMOs—that can be made to withstand droughts and to be irrigable with brackish water. For example, more than a decade ago, Egyptian researchers showed that transferring a single gene from barley to wheat allows the wheat to grow with far less irrigation than conventional wheat; it can survive on meager rainfall alone. Similar genetic modification has created drought-tolerant corn varieties, and more such crops are in the works.

Genetically engineered crops also conserve water by allowing cultivation in salty soils. Fully one-third of irrigated land worldwide, including much of California, is unsuitable for growing crops; every year, nearly 500,000 acres of irrigated land are lost for cultivation due to salt accumulation. Scientists have enhanced the salt tolerance in crops as diverse as tomatoes and canola, and made them irrigable with brackish water, thus conserving fresh water for other uses. Another innovation: by making no-till cultivation possible, the genetic engineering of crops for herbicide tolerance helps trap soil moisture (and also releases less CO2into the atmosphere). Under drought conditions, this can mean the difference between a harvest and a crop failure.

The best solution to California’s water problems would be to encourage water markets and end water subsidies for farmers. A second-best approach is to tax the most egregious examples of waste—and organic products are at the top of the inefficiency list. Placing a tax on already outrageously priced, water-wasting organic products would lessen the demand for them and alleviate some of the pressure on California’s uncertain water supplies. And such a tax would be progressive, falling disproportionately on wealthy consumers. In short, reducing California’s organic agricultural production in favor of more efficient, modern techniques would deliver “more crop for the drop.”

Permanent Water Rationing is Coming to California

Shower head water droughtHave you experienced water faucets that spray tiny jets of water onto your hands? You know, those eight tiny jets of water, each about 1.0 millimeter in diameter, that are emitted with so much pressure that the paltry quantity of water bounces off your skin before you can get it wet enough to apply soap, and makes rinsing the soap off nearly impossible? You can find these water faucets in airports and other public places, where they constitute a minor annoyance. But wait. Thanks to California’s state legislature, they’re on their way into your home.

You’ll just love your personal space filled up with these expensive gadgets. For example, these faucets will probably require voice-activation, turn off after ten seconds, and send a report to your utility in order to help you manage your usage patterns. Smart faucets. Smart washers. Smart dish washers. Smart shower heads and smart toilets – all coming your way, thanks to the California State Legislature and their partners, the scarcity profiteers of Silicon Valley.

You’ll love how all these water-sipping, next-generation durable goods can go “down,” get hacked, don’t work very well, and require annual warranty payments. You’ll also love purchasing bargain basement annual software upgrades, but only affordable, barely, if you join their green team club for life special VIP program. You’ll love how the control panel on your washer will look like the bridge of a starship, and can only be operated after you’ve mastered the virtual version of a two-inch thick instruction manual.

California’s ruling coalition of government employee unions, extreme environmentalists, and high-tech billionaires are at it again, this time with a water conservation bill, AB 1668, that is going to impose a mandatory limit of 55 gallons per person per day on indoor water consumption. Bring on the gadgets.

To put the impact of this bill into perspective, consider what it would cost to retrofit a household to reduce indoor water consumption:



The biggest cost on this table is the cost for a tankless water heater or a hot water circulation system, necessary if we don’t want to waste water while waiting for it to get hot. Because there’s no good solution to that problem, this is a significant source of water waste that is blithely ignored by water conservation activists. It’s reasonable to expect people in a developed, wealthy nation like America to wait until they have warm water before washing their hands, shaving, hand washing dishes, or showering. And there is no way a person is going to bring their indoor water usage down to 55 gallons a day without either performing all these tasks with cold water, or by installing a system to deliver instant hot water.

But if every Californian did their best to comply with AB 1668, could they reduce their water usage to 55 gallons per day? The next table shows how much they could save, using USGS data. Please note the USGS data is for America, not for California, where decades of conservation incentives have already yielded tremendous reductions in use. Per capital indoor water use in California isn’t anywhere near 139 gallons per day. More on that later.



Apart from water efficient toilets which save water and don’t require lifestyle changes, there’s not much here that isn’t expensive and inconvenient. Notwithstanding the fact that Silicon Valley moguls are salivating over the prospects of subsequent mandates that will require all these retrofit appliances to be “smart,” they aren’t going to make life better. Low flow shower heads require longer duration showers, especially if you have to rinse shampoo out of long hair. Consumer reports offer mixed reviews on low water consumption dishwashers and washing machines. Some of us like to wash our dishes by hand – in many cases because it’s less time consuming. And who wants to pull wet clothes out of side loading washers? As for waiting for hot water to make it to faucets, there’s no inexpensive and effective solution.

Enforcing the 55 gallon indoor limit will also be costly not only for California’s residents, but for every water utility in the state. After all, to regulate indoor water consumption, you have to measure indoor water consumption separately from outdoor water consumption. And, of course, residential outdoor water consumption is also in AB 1668’s cross hairs. To accomplish this, AB 1668 calls for dedicated outdoor water meters, separate from indoor water meters, and it calls for water utilities to prepare a water “budget” for each customer parcel based on the size of the parcel and other factors such as the local climate.


Since AB 1668 proposes to effectively ration residential water consumption, at staggering expense, it’s worthwhile to explore the cost and benefit of this policy. If we assume that five million of California’s 12.5 million households still have legacy appliances, just the retrofit would cost these unlucky homeowners $37.5 billion. But it doesn’t end there, because the water utilities would have to install indoor/outdoor meters on around 10 million households (some households are in multi-family dwellings with no yard or a shared yard). Assuming the cost to install these meters and conduct site visits to assign individual outdoor “water budgets” at $1,000 per household means another $10 billion will have to be spent – i.e., implementing AB 1668 will cost $47 billion.

But how much water would actually be saved, for $47 billion? According to the most authoritative study available on current indoor water consumption, the average Californians uses 62 gallons per day. (ref. California Water Plan Update 2013 Chapter 3, page 12, 1st paragraph “Indoor Residential.”) This means that if California’s 40 million residents got their indoor water use down to 50 gallons per day from 62 gallons per day, it would save 537 thousand acre feet per year (0.54 million acre feet). This is a minute fraction, less than 1%, of California’s total water diversions for environmental, agricultural, and urban uses.

AB 1668 is not about saving water. It’s about control. It’s about power and profit for special interests. Otherwise we could just expand sewage treatment plants, which we should do anyway. How can you waste indoor water if it can go down the drain, to be treated and pumped right back up the hill for reuse?

Let’s keep this in perspective by imagining best case scenarios whereby indoor and outdoor residential water use is dramatically reduced. If Calfornia’s 40 million residents reduced their household water consumption by another 20%, it would only save 0.74 million acre feet per year. An impossible 40% reduction? Savings of 1.5 million acre feet per year. For one-tenth the cost, the proposed “off-stream” Sites Reservoir could easily capture over 2.0 million acre feet each year in storm runoff. Just one good storm dumps ten times that much water onto California’s watersheds.



So what could Californians do instead with $47 billion? We’ve looked at this before. Limiting ourselves to water infrastructure, here’s a list:


First of all, market-based incentives can eliminate water scarcity at almost no cost. For example: Allow farmers to sell their water allotments at market rates without losing their vested rights. Or permit utilities to engage in mild price hikes that encourage people to use less water, instead of resorting to punitive tiered pricing or rationing. These alternatives, to some extent, have already been tried. They work. But if you accept the premise that increasing the absolute supply of water in California is desirable – here are the capital costs for water infrastructure that would create water abundance in California for decades to come.

  • Desalinate 1.0 million acre feet of seawater  –  $15 billion.
  • Reclaim and reuse 2.0 million acre feet of sewage  –  $10 billion.
  • Build the Sites Reservoir for off-stream storage of 2.0 million acre feet of run-off  –  4.4 billion.
  • Build the Temperance Flat Reservoir for 1.3 million acre feet of storage  –  3.3 billion.
  • Aquifer recharge to store runoff – there isn’t even a good study exploring this option at a statewide level.

As can be seen, all of these water infrastructure projects could be built for $32.7 billion. They could be financed via infrastructure bonds, increased rates to consumers, redirection of funds currently being squandered on high-speed rail, or even redirection of proceeds from carbon emission auctions.

What California’s ruling junta prefers, however, is to create a surveillance state defined by expensive scarcity. In the 1950s and 1960s, California’s legislature approved and implemented what remains the finest system of inter-basin water transfers in the world. But today, after over 30 years of neglect, at the same time as California’s population has doubled, California’s water infrastructure is crumbling at a time when it should be expanded. The reasons for this are plain enough. Special interests have replaced the public interest.


Instead of building water infrastructure to increase supplies of water, public employee unions want to see tax revenues pour into their pockets and into the pension funds. High-tech billionaires want contracts to build “smart” appliances and monitoring systems to enforce water rationing. Extreme environmentalists, and the trial lawyers who get incredibly wealthy representing their organizations, want more legal bases upon which to file lucrative lawsuits. Sadly, major corporate agribusinesses often acquiesce to this abuse of residents because they’ve decided that a bigger slice of a smaller pie is all they can hope for from this legislature.

Until Californians realize there will be no end to these encroachments on their freedom and prosperity until they resist, California’s ruling junta will prevail. California will be a harder and harder place to live. If ordinary Californians value their freedom, they will form a coalition with farmers, energy companies, civil engineering firms, and construction unions to demand water abundance. They may rediscover the vision and leadership that built a water infrastructure that is still one of the wonders of the modern world.


Assembly Bill 1668, “Water management planning” Text (Source: California Legislative Information)

Residential Water Use in California:

Water Saving Potential of water-efficient appliances (Source: USGS)

California Water Plan Update 2013 Chapter 3 – Urban Water Use Efficiency

Cost to purchase and install various water-saving appliances:

Cost (including installation) for a tankless water heater

Cost (including installation) for a water efficient dishwasher

Cost (including installation) for a water efficient clothes washer

Cost (including installation) for a low flow toilet

Total precipitation in California during wet, average, and dry years:

California Water Supply and Demand: Technical Report
Stockholm Environment Institute
Table 2: Baseline Annual Values by Water Year Type and Climate-Scenario (MAF)

California water use by sector:

California Water Today
Public Policy Institute of California
Table 2.2, Average annual water use by sector, 1998–2005

California urban water use by sector:

California Dept. of Water Resources
2010 Urban Water Management Plan Data – Tables
Download spreadsheet “DOST Tables 3, 4, 5, 6, 7a, 7b, & 7c: Water Deliveries – Actual and Projected, 2005-2035”

*   *   *

Oroville Dam Spillway Cracking After $500 Million Repair

Oroville Dam 2The California Department of Water Resources acknowledged this week that many cracks have appeared in the new concrete of the Oroville Dam spillway, which cost over $500 million to repair.

The State of California is believed to have spent $100 million each month on Oroville Dam during February, March and April in a crisis effort to try to stabilize America’s tallest dam, which suffered a near collapse and forced the evacuation of 200,000 downstream residents earlier this year.

The Kiewit Corporation, which was issued a $275 million contract in April to repair both of Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways, poured a 1,700-foot cement top sheet and then roller-compacted and smoothed the spillway’s surfaces shortly before the November 1 contract deadline. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) inspected the work and certified the first phase of the massive repair job was completed on time.

But the Sacramento Bee reported that cracks were first detected in September “when the first phase was nearing completion.” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has federal oversight over the California owned dam, instructed DWR on October 2 to investigate “cracking of the erosion resistant concrete” on the repaired spillway and to recommend any further steps necessary to address infrastructure risks.

The California Division of Dams wrote a letter to FERC on November 7 to reassure regulators that “the presence of hairline cracks was anticipated and is not expected to affect the integrity of the slabs.” DWR spokeswoman Erin Mellon added, “All concrete has this result in the placement. It’s just physics of how concrete works.”

But KQED reported that Robert Bea, a professor emeritus of civil engineering and founderof the highly respected UC Berkeley Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, stated, “Cracking in high-strength reinforced concrete structures is never to be expected.” He added that when large volumes of water cascade down the spillway at speeds approaching 90 miles-per-hour, even small cracks could increase stresses on concrete.

The CCRM has issued several reports documenting that the state was aware of serious cracking in the Oroville Spillway as far back as a 1998 inspection report. DWR did try to patch some cracks and fill up visible voids. But CCRM dam experts stated that finding hollow areas is like trying to find a stud behind a wall by tapping it with a hammer.

Bea’s group is especially alarmed by green grass that has continued to grow on the dam’s abutments during the hot summer and fall. The lush green grass indicates there has been seepage through the dam face for about 50 years. CCRM does not accept DWR’s explanation that the seepage is not a risk, because it is just some “natural springs.” CCRM warns that any seepage through an earth-fill dam should be extremely worrisome.

This article was originally published by Brietbart.com/California

Multibillion-dollar water measures heading to state ballot

With a five-year drought and then a winter of floods having exposed the limits of California’s vast network of reservoirs, dams and canals, voters are likely to have the chance next year to decide whether to pay for major upgrades to the state’s waterworks.

Two multibillion-dollar bonds are expected to go before voters that promise to boost water supplies, offer flood protection and restore rivers and streams. One measure, sponsored by the Legislature, also would fund new parks and hiking trails. The second, a privately backed initiative, would go further to improve the infrastructure that moves water to cities and farms.

Regardless of whether state voters approve either measure, a handful of reservoirs will be built or expanded with billions of dollars from a previously approved water bond.

Supporters of the new initiatives say the need to upgrade the state’s water-storage system has been apparent for some time, and that with the near-failure of Oroville Dam last winter and drought-induced water shortages still fresh in voters’ minds, now is the time go to the public to fund long-term improvements. But with two measures likely to add a combined $14 billion-plus to the state’s bond debt, some skeptics say the would-be water overhaul is an overreach. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Democrats seek $4 billion bond for water, flood control, parks

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

As torrential rains and dangerous flood waters pummel large swaths of Texas and parts of Louisiana, California lawmakers are eying legislation to prevent similar damage from from the state’s own disasters.

Senate Bill 5 from state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León would ask voters this upcoming June to approve a $4 billion bond to fund water, flood and parks projects across California.

To make it to the governor’s desk, it would need to clear the Assembly, where another water and open space bond from from Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, is under debate.

De León has characterized the bond as critical following the state’s historic five-year drought, and the 2017 winter storms that marked the wettest water year for California in more than a century.

If passed, bond proceeds would fund flood and water infrastructure projects, and expand and improve local parks and open space. It would allocate $550 million for water projects, $750 million for flood control projects such as levee repair and $2.6 billion for local and regional parks – including $800 million to build new parks in lower income communities. It would also fund deferred maintenance and other projects at California’s state parks system, including construction of new trails, plant and wildlife habitat restoration and coastal climate change adaptation projects. …

Click here to read the full article

Legislature Wants to Tax Drinking Water for First Time in History

Drinking waterThe California Legislature is moving for the first time in history to tax every residence and business about a dollar a month for drinking water to generate $2 billion over the next 15 years to supposedly clean up contaminated ground water.

Although Senate Bill 623 is titled: “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund,” a coalition of agricultural and environmental lobbyists convinced its author Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) to amend the ground water cleanup bill that has been moving through the Legislature since February, to quietly add a water tax of 95 cents per month on every residence and business. The bill would also tack on $30 million in farm and dairy fees.

The European Union first promoted an environmental tax on water under the cover of the imminent global warming crisis. But the 28 nations of the EU have expanded their water taxation regime to include a tap water tax; a value added tax on all water purchases; a provincial groundwater tax; and a tax for installations on public land or water.

A similar environmental tax was proposed as SB-20 in 2015 at the end of California’s 5-year drought by California Senator Fran Pavley (D-Conejo Valley), author of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that created the cap and trade tax tsunami.

But her water tax effort ran into blistering opposition from California’s 317 water districts and agencies that complained it was an effort to use the drought crisis as justification “to fund another layer of administration in Sacramento.” The effort failed when it did not get any Republican crossover support for the 2/3 constitutional requirement to pass a tax.

California has never taxed drinking water, which has always been exempt as an essential “food product” by the California State Board of Equalization under Regulation 1602. Other tax-exempt liquid food products included non-carbonated fruit and vegetable juices. The tax-exemption was expanded in 1981 to include bottled water.

The main reason that the Legislature had avoided taxing water is the long and bloody California history of water wars that date back to the 1849 gold rush. Mark Twain famously commented that in California: “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”

But in an unprecedented turn, the powerful Western Growers that represent large farmers in California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico released a statement supporting SB-623 to provide clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities that cannot afford clean drinking water. The growers acknowledged the challenges of agriculture relying on nitrogen-rich and its runoff impact on water quality.

The Western Growers in a landmark statement added, “working with the environmental justice community, as well as other stakeholders, for over a year in an effort to address the critical needs in disadvantaged communities relating to safe drinking water. Since these challenges are numerous, both from naturally occurring contaminants and human sources, we believe the solution should be shouldered by a broad array of stakeholders.”

inancial writer and speaker, and author of the book, “The Third Way”

This piece was originally published at Breitbart/California.

Water Wars Rage Over Where to Spend Bond Money

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirAfter a 35-year stalemate stalled new California water storage projects, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders agreed in 2014 to include $2.7 billion for such needs as part of Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond approved in a landslide by voters later that year.

The then-raging drought persuaded Democrats to go along with major water storage creation plans after blocking new projects since California completed its last dam in 1979. Many Republicans saw the opposition as a back-door way for environmentalists to squeeze state farmers to limit agricultural pollution and protect native species, and to slow growth in urban areas.

Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council scoffed at these claims. They say encouraging water conservation is always a good goal in an arid state, and argue that state and federal laws that protect threatened species need to be fully followed.

This sharp disagreement reflects how water politics have long been fraught in the Golden State. And now that the California Water Commission must choose which of 12 qualified proposed projects to fund with the $2.7 billion kitty, officials’ decisions are sure to be buffeted once again by regional interests (Northern vs. Southern California), economic interests (farmers vs. developers) and environmentalists’ interests. With the 12 projects estimated to cost about $13.1 billion – $10 billion-plus more than what is available – some key water stakeholders are sure to end up unhappy. Some districts will be forced to seek all or nearly all funding from other sources, starting with their customers.

Greens quick to start push for preferred project

The 12 projects were unveiled last week. The water commission must make its final decision by June 2018.

Environmentalists wasted no time identifying their favorite project: The Contra Costa Water District’s proposal to increase the storage capacity at its Los Vaqueros reservoir by more than 70 percent – going from 160,000 acre-feet to 275,000 acre-feet. Contra Costa officials say the additional capacity could meet the yearly needs of 1.4 million people.

But that isn’t why the $914 million project already has the strong support of several environmental groups – including the Planning and Conservation League, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy. It’s because a chunk of the water would go to threatened Central Valley wetland refuges to shore up their fragile ecosystems, long a goal of state greens.

To boost the case for the proposal, Contra Costa water officials have lined up the formal support – and promises of funding help – from 12 other Bay Area water districts, which see the additional storage as “drought insurance.”

The most costly proposed projects are to build a $5 billion dam in Colusa County and a $3 billion dam in Fresno County.

Most of the projects proposed for Southern California are less ambitious. The exception is from the city of San Diego, which is asking for the water commission to help cover the $1.2 billion cost of a plant to recycle wastewater with advanced technology that makes it fully safe to mix with conventional water supplies. Officials believe the plant can supply one-third of city needs by 2035.

The project won final approval at San Diego City Hall in 2014, two weeks after Proposition 1 passed.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Political Water Scams Back on the California Ballot

RB DroughtMy 2016 article, Why Can’t California Farmers Get the Water They Need?, exposed Gov. Brown’s shadow government appointees at the State Water Resources Control Board that ordered the release of massive amounts of water from the New Melones Reservoir and Lake Tulloch, to save a dozen fish, and how Gov. Brown systematically booted a number of qualified people off of the California Water Commission, the body that is deciding how to spend $2.7 billion in public funds for Prop. 1 Water Bond water storage projects.

Also revealed was Gerald Meral – a shadowy figure continuously involved in a series of dubious parks, natural resource and water bond ballot initiatives. Meral is also the highly controversial Natural Resources deputy secretary who famously claimed, “BDCP [Bay Delta Conservation Plan ] is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved,” as, in April 2013, he directed the BCDP for Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to build the peripheral Delta tunnels.

Immediately following Meral’s statement, five Congressional members called for Meral’s immediate resignation. They warned “that the Administration’s plan, if unchanged, will devastate the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the communities that rely on it, a concern that Northern California Lawmakers and other stakeholders have voiced throughout the process.”

In 2016 I wrote:

Gerald Meral, director of the Natural Heritage Instituteformer top water official for Jerry Brown, author of a controversial plan to build water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, also authored eight competing water bond ballot initiatives submitted this election cycle. He notably has a long record of Fair Political Practices Commission violations for past ballot measure “logrolling,” the unethical practice of soliciting money to support and fund ballot measure campaigns based for political favors.

Meral found himself in hot water in 2014 when Restore the Delta, opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project to drain the California Delta, filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission charging former Brown Administration Bay Delta Conservation Plan point man, Gerald Meral, with “illegal lobbying.”

Meral’s Back …With a New Ballot Initiative … and a New Associate

Gerald (Jerry) Meral and Joseph Caves (Tom Steyer’s Proposition 65 money man) both submitted proposition language for water bond ballot initiatives a couple of weeks apart, in July 2017. The two initiatives are remarkably similar — even have the same wording in numerous places — and suggest coordination to ensure passage. Meral’s ballot initiative would raise $8.4 billion, while Cave’s is for $7.5 billion.

Remarkably, in California’s Legislature, there’s also Assembly Bill 18, by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D- Coachella), a Parks and Water Bond bill, and Senate Bill 5, by Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles). AB18 is a more “modest” $3.1 billion bond measure and SB5 is for $3.8 billion. Like the Meral and Caves citizen initiative proposals, they share supporters, sponsors and some language.

All four measures broadly benefit a shared group of non-profit and quasi-governmental green conservation organizations.

Shadow Government = No Transparency, No Accountability

This important to remember: The non-profit groups behind Meral’s, Caves’, Garcia’s and de Leon’s ballot initiatives have been feeding at the government money trough, doing little or nothing to actually help improve water storage or delivery issues, while the water deficit in California only got worse during the drought.

Droughts are naturally occurring; water deficits are government-created and political. UC Davis water experts estimate California’s annual structural water supply deficit at 4.5-5.0 million acre-feet annually, in years of drought and those with plenty of precipitation. California lacks a more developed water supply to serve the needs of its 40 million citizens, its farms and the environment.

One additional note that might explain the four ballot measure proposals’ similarities is the cluster of coordinated groups surrounding their authors, a group relationship deeply entwined in state water politics.

The Water Education Foundation, California Waterfowl Association, Natural Heritage Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Audubon California, Ducks Unlimited, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the River and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance … all have financial and personnel connections to a trio of shadowy organizations, the Resources Legacy Fund, its related tax-exempt foundation Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, and for-profit legal services firm Resources Law Group, founded by Michael Mantell, President of the Resources Legacy Fund and Resources Law Group.

Michael Mantell was Undersecretary for the Natural Resources agency for the State of California, 1991 – 1997, and is a close associate of Jerry Meral. Numerous attorneys from the for-profit Resources Law Group also are staff members of the non-profit Resources Legacy Fund, its foundation and the Resources Law Group.

Making Your Head Explode

Resources Legacy Fund also runs the California Water Foundation as an internal project under the direction of former California Natural Resources Secretary Lester Snow (2010 – 2011), another Jerry Brown appointee with close ties to Gerald Meral, who served as his deputy secretary from 2011 to 2013. Meral now leads the Natural Heritage Institute, a benefactor of theResources Legacy Fund’s grants that, in turn, makes grants to the other green groups listed as supporters of one or both of the legislature’s bond bills.

The revolving doors at the Natural Resources Agency, Resources Legacy Fund and its Foundation show its employees move in and out of the government, knowing that when they are inside, they will grant favors to those outside in exchange for secure positions and comfy salaries when they are back outside again. All of them dance to the tune of Packard Foundation, the Rockefeller Bros. Fund, Tides Center, Pisces Foundation and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, which shower them with millions of dollars.

Gerald Meral retired his state position at theNatural Resources Agency to assume a leadership role the following day at the Natural Heritage Institute, as director of NHI’s California Water Program. Meral’s fingerprints also are all over the language of Proposition 1, the water bond measure passed in 2014.

Also implicated is The Nature Conservancy, a named supporter of the De Leon bill. Jay Ziegler, the Conservancy’s California Water Program Director for Policy & External Affairs issued a joint press announcement with Meral in February 2016 to withdraw his eight ballot measures submissions, saying “The Legislative leadership has expressed an interest in natural resources bonds, and we are committed to working with them to place a measure on the 2016 ballot through the Legislative process. If this effort is not successful, we plan to place a water bond initiative on the November 2018 ballot. …We plan to refile our water bond initiative early next year depending on what is accomplished in the legislative arena this year.”

Meral conceived and was a long time cheerleader for the peripheral canal when he served as a Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources during the 1970’s for then-Governor Brown, who hired Meral, a former Environmental Defense Fund leader whom Brown had met when Meral was running an anti-dam campaign… And Brown did this despite voters resounding rejection of Brown’s 1982 plan to build the Canal through the Delta. “The Peripheral Canal has always been a project for the next century,”William Kahr wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “The fact that the issue came up at all in the late 1970s had more to do with then-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.’s political ambitions than any actual water shortages.” Kahr was the editor of “The California Water Atlas.

Brown now supports an updated version of the peripheral canal, euphemistically renamed “WaterFix.” The twin tunnels would be 40 feet in diameter, located 15 stories beneath the Delta to move water from the Sacramento River 35 miles around the eastern edge of the delta.

The anti-WaterFix group, Restore the Delta, filed a complaint against Meral with the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2014 noting his coordination with groups that would receive direct and indirect funding from Meral’s earlier proposed bond initiatives. Restore the Delta submitted evidence of sharing of Meral’s initiative drafts between various members of the participating groups. In one case, the California Waterfowl Association published on its website that its legal counsel had participated in drafting language for the initiative that would benefit the Association’s goals.

Gerald Meral’s checkered past may explain in part his relationship with all these players. He was found guilty of “logrolling” by the FPPC on Prop 50 some years ago — the unethical practice of soliciting money to support and fund ballot measure campaigns based for political favors.

But Meral is back. His fingerprints are all over every one of the water bonds passed since 2000, in addition to the eight measures in 2016, and the latest. And he’s working in the shadows to control California’s water future, with a lot of groups licking their lips at another big payoff, perhaps to permanently fund a “green wall” that would blunt any counter-conservation efforts here and now, or in the future.

This article was originally published by the Flash Report.

California Begins 6th Straight Dry Year

As reported by CBS San Francisco:

California’s 2016 water year ended Friday, marking a fifth consecutive dry year with low snowfall, officials from the Department of Water Resources said.

As state water officials measure it, the “water year” runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 each year.

Officials said that 2016’s water year is listed in the record books as “dry” statewide, despite that parts of northern California experienced above-average precipitation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center sees slightly better than even odds that La Nina conditions will develop this fall and winter, though that does not necessarily mean there will be substantial rainfall, however. …

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