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California Water Projects Vie for $2.7 Billion in State Bond Funds

California Water Projects Vie for $2.7 Billion in State Bond Funds

CALIFORNIA – Water storage projects throughout the Golden State are officially competing for a share of $2.7 billion in state bond funds earmarked via Proposition 1—a bond measure passed by voters in 2014. According to a News Deeply report, a dozen projects are currently in the running for Water Storage Investment Program funds to be distributed by the California Water Commission and used exclusively for “public benefit.”

According to the news source, projects must have demonstrable public benefits such as enhancing flows for fish habitat or improving flood control—and must also demonstrate some benefit to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem, the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast and source of most of the state’s freshwater.

Chris Orrock, Information Officer, California Water Commission“We’re happy to be at a point that we actually have tangible projects that are applying for funding,” said Chris Orrock, Public Information Officer for the Water Commission. “Now the hard work of technical review is getting started.”

The projects proposed by applicants include a number of improvements to city water infrastructure, projects to fund recycling and groundwater storage on agricultural land, and others, but the list of 12 projects is largely comprised of reservoir creation or expansion projects.

Photo Courtesy Contra Costa Water District

Applicants include a number of public agencies and “joint powers authorities,” among them the Contra Costa Water District, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, the Nevada Irrigation District, the City of San Diego – Public Utilities Department, and the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District. Applicants have thus far applied for nearly $5.8 million in funds—more than two times the available funding.

And while many have stressed the need for new and improved water projects in the wake of a protracted drought—from which the state only recently recovered—some critics have expressed dismay at the various projects involved.

Photo Courtesy Contra Costa Water District

Jay Lund, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Davis, told News Deeply that Californians may have unrealistic expectations of new water projects—particularly with regard to water storage.

Jay Lund, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis“The public evidently had tremendous expectations for storage in approving this bond—largely unrealistic expectations,” Lund said. “It’s not like the 1950s or 60s when people thought you could solve all the water scarcity problems by building new storage. Today, the more storage you build, the less additional water you get out of that storage…It’s not just about building new storage. There’s a whole raft of other things we need to do to rejigger California water to make it more modern to meet the uses we have—now and in future.”

The Water Commission’s review of the various proposed projects will be completed by mid-December, and the commission plans to work in close collaboration with other state agencies—the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, for example—to review each proposal’s claims. After this time, the commission will embark on another review of the finalists and schedule hearings on each project. In June, the commission will rank the projects and make a final decision about how much funding each project is eligible to receive.

For more on this situation as it develops, stay tuned to AndNowUKnow.

California Water Commission