Exeter signs on for state water infrastructure funding

Exeter pens letter of support for Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022

EXETER – Exeter’s city council is on board with More Water Now, joining Tulare County and the Tulare County Farm Bureau in support of the anticipated water legislation.

At the Dec. 14 meeting, the city council approved a letter of support for the Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022. The anticipated legislation—also known as the More Water Now initiative—aims to increase the water supply to Californians. Its proponents—namely Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Porterville)—are currently circulating petitions in hopes of garnering 1 million signatures to be placed on the Nov. 2022 ballot.

The constitutional initiative is intended to improve California’s aging water infrastructure and to construct new means to capture and deliver water to all parts of the state. The More Water Now initiative would take 2% of the state’s general fund to support projects that increase California’s annual supply of water to cities, farms and unserved regions.

The legislation would also:

  • Unlock immediate access to tens of billions of dollars that will be invested in water projects by permitting up to half of the 2% allocation to be used to pay principal and interest on construction bonds
  • Give priority to underfunded projects approved by voters in Prop. 1 (2014) that are also already approved by the California Water Commission
  • Prioritize the maintenance, repair and upgrading of projects to deliver abundant and affordable drinking water to underserved communities
  • Funding does not expire until the supply capacity of new projects provides 5 million acre feet of new water for California consumers, with surplus water used to protect California’s ecosystems
  • Eligible projects include funding for conservation programs that will result in up to 1 million acre-feet of water saved
  • Allocate funds based on an all-of-the-above strategy, allowing Californians to repair and upgrade aqueducts, dams, water treatment plants, build off-stream reservoirs, expand existing reservoirs, invest in wastewater reuse and desalination plants, runoff capture and aquifer recharge and recovery
  • Streamline the bureaucratic process so projects can be designed and built in a reasonable amount of time

The More Water Now initiative is not without its critics. Dr. Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and co-founder of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, told the LA Times the legislation is living in the past.

“The proposed initiative is a desperate throwback to the idea that there is still more water that can be extracted from California’s already massively overtapped rivers and aquifers, and the way to do it is with old, damaging 20th century infrastructure of dams, diversions and expensive centralized systems,” Gleick told the LA times.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) estimates it would potentially take more than $100 billion to develop 5 million acre-feet of additional annual water supply as the More Water Now initiative intends. For context, the State Water Project, the water storage and delivery system for 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland comprising canals, pipelines, reservoirs, dams and hydroelectric power facilities extending two-thirds the length of California, was built to deliver about 4.2 million acre-feet of water per year.

According to the LAO, most spending on water is currently by local governments. In recent years, local agencies spent about $18 billion annually on water supply activities, of which residents and farmers pay for the majority of through their water bills. The state does give grants and loans to local government agencies to help pay part of the costs of some local water projects.

In recent years, the state has spent about $1.3 billion per year to support water supply projects, primarily from voter-approved general obligation bonds paid for by the state’s general fund. The More Water Now initiative would dedicate upwards of $4 billion per year for water supply projects from existing state revenues for the next few decades.

The LAO predicts the measure would likely decrease local government costs for water projects.

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