Mythbuster 2016-07-28T11:03:16+00:00

[fullwidth background_color=”” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”20″ padding_left=”10%” padding_right=”10%” hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”default” sep_color=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” class=”” id=””]BUSTING THE MYTHS ABOUT THE PROPOSED WATER PRIORITIES BALLOT INITIATIVE[/title][fusion_text]

The circulation of myths and misinformation is one of the biggest barriers to understanding the issues affecting California’s water crisis and the High Speed Rail boondoggle. Myths create confusion and can fuel conflict, resentment and disharmony.

The proposed California Water Priorities Initiative, currently in the signature-gathering phase, would redirect up to $10.7 billion in previously authorized High-Speed Rail Project and 2014 Water Bond general obligation bond authority to fund construction of specific water-storage related projects throughout the state and amend the state’s constitution to protect and prioritize uses of water, putting people’s needs first.

This quick mythbuster aims to highlight the common myths about the proposed ballot initiative and to correct the record for people seeking accurate information. For more detailed information about these myths, please visit

[/fusion_text][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”6px” bottom_margin=”6px” sep_color=”#ffffff” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””][section_separator divider_candy=”bottom” icon=”” icon_color=”” bordersize=”1px” bordercolor=”” backgroundcolor=”” class=”” id=””][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”6px” bottom_margin=”6px” sep_color=”#ffffff” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””][accordian divider_line=”yes” class=”” id=””][toggle title=”MYTH: Threatens Water Rights” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: The Water Priorities Initiative does not threaten water rights. The constitutional portion is explicitly subordinate to and in furtherance of the provisions of Article X, Section 2 of the California Constitution, which establishes all California water rights and from which water rights are derived under the Constitution and subsequent state laws. The statutory portion includes specific language to prevent court misinterpretation resulting in any change to water rights and strengthens existing protections of existing water rights, including area of origin and pre-1914 rights.

Article 1

Sec. 79801   Findings

The People of California find and declare all of the following, in addition to the findings set forth in Section 1, Part 1.0 of this Measure:

(e) Development of the new water storage and groundwater storage facilities, and improvement of the existing water storage facilities provided for in this measure will not diminish, impair, or otherwise affect matters of public benefit or for the public trust, including but not limited to, any area of origin, watershed of origin, county of origin, or other water rights protections, including, but not limited to, rights to water appropriated prior to December 19, 1914, provided under existing law.


79809. (a) Subject to the provisions of Section 79801(g) and 79802(e) and notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Authority shall make the determination that any projects authorized by this Division do not diminish, impair, or otherwise affect matters of public benefit or for the public trust, including but not limited to, any area of origin, watershed of origin, county of origin, or other water rights protections, including, but not limited to, rights to water appropriated prior to December 19, 1914, provided under the law; provided, however, that the Legislature may reject the findings of those sections only by a 2/3ds roll call vote of the membership concurring; and the Legislature may not delegate to any other state agency the power to make such determinations with respect to the projects authorized by this Division.

(b) Nothing in this division supersedes, limits, or otherwise modifies the applicability of Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1700) of Part 2 of Division 2, including petitions related to any new conveyance constructed or operated in accordance with Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 85320 of Part 4 of Division 35.”

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Ruins 2014 Prop 1 Water Bond” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: The 2014 Prop 1 Water Bond was the result of nearly a decade-long effort in the state legislature to pass water legislation. Of the $7.12 billion dollars approved by the voters, including $425 million in unsold bond funds redirected from prior bond acts, it is a myth that any funds were specifically set aside for the building of new water storage facilities; rather, $2.7 billion was appropriated for funding public benefits resulting from construction of water storage projects, specifically, benefits due to ecosystem improvement and water quality improvement, recreation, emergency response, flood control, and water storage. Selection of projects and administration of these funds were delegated to the governor’s appointed members of the California Water Commission, within the California Department of Water Resources.

Proposition 1. Chapter 8.

79750 (c) Projects shall be selected by the commission through a competitive public process that ranks potential projects based on the expected return for public investment as measured by the magnitude of the public benefits provided.

79754. In consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state board, and the Department of Water Resources, the commission shall develop and adopt, by regulation, methods for quantification and management of public benefits described in Section 79753 by December 15, 2016. The regulations shall include the priorities and relative environmental value of ecosystem benefits as provided by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the priorities and relative environmental value of water quality benefits as provided by the state board.

The bill passed with only $2.7 billion in Chapter 8 “water storage” funds, an amount widely agreed to be insufficient to meet the already evident needs of the state for adding new water storage facilities and resolving the public safety and reliability issues of California’s water supply.  The proposed Water Priorities Initiative picks up where Proposition 1 left off to guarantee funding to specific projects statewide that fill the gap left by Proposition 1. By adding the up to $8 billion from the High Speed Rail project, the initiative creates a new fund of up to $10.7 billion specifically designated to:

Sec.2, Part 4, 79813

  • Build Sites Reservoir
  • Build Temperance Flat Reservoir
  • Expand Shasta Reservoir
  • Expand San Luis Reservoir
  • Construct new groundwater storage facilities and recharge existing groundwater aquifers
  • Modernize existing surface and groundwater storage facilities
  • Construct local surface and groundwater facilities such as storm water capture, wastewater treatment, and water recycling
  • Provide sustainable groundwater management programs

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Prevents Sites and Temperance Flat Reservoirs Being Built” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: The Water Priorities initiative requires that Sites and Temperance Flat reservoir be built with specific funds appropriated by the initiative for those purposes, and fully funds the 50% California funding obligation for immediate construction with no other qualifying requirement. (Sec. 2, Part 4, 79813). Based on the construction cost estimates prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its alternatives for Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flats Reservoir, the $2.7 billion in bond funding provided by Proposition 1 is insufficient to fully fund both of these projects, and could only assure completion of either Sites or Temperance Flat. (,

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Delays Storage Projects” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: Delay of projects is virtually impossible. First, it is unlikely that any project considered for Proposition 1 bond funds would be qualified, approved, funded, complete all approvals and have the necessary permits to begin construction earlier than the dates specified in the proposed measure. Second, Proposition 1’s Chapter 8 stipulated that no bonds could be issued for construction projects until after December 31, 2016. This measure, if qualified, will be voted on in November 2016 and, if passed, will take effect prior to the action date stipulated by Proposition 1. If it is not passed, Proposition 1 will be unaffected. Finally, the drafters of the proposed measure amended their filing on December 18, 2015, to include language permitting the new Authority to grandfather in approved projects authorized by the California Water Commission prior to the new measure’s date of enactment.

Sec. 79805 (c)(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of Section 79805, the Authority may elect, in its sole discretion, to accept and adopt as fully compliant with Section 79805: (A) any prior approval by the Commission of any water storage project, in whole or in part, made before enactment of this measure, or (B) any authorization by the Commission to issue bonds and expend bond funds for any water storage project, as provided in Section 79750, or (C) any timetable or schedule of completion approved by the Commission for any water storage project, including any schedule for issuance of bonds funding said water storage project, provided, however, that said project or part of project, as accepted and adopted, shall also fulfill the purposes set forth in Section 79813.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Is An End Run Around The Environment” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: Upon passage of the Water Priorities initiative and fulfilling its requirements to build new water projects, state and federal environmental protection programs will have more water available than ever before. No change to the state’s Constitution or to California’s statutes impact any federal environmental law or regulations or orders stemming from federal environmental laws. Such protections will still have a right to 50% of the developed surface water supply. Fully implemented, the initiative expands surface water supply by nearly 5 million acre feet, including new water deriving from improved operational sources made available once the new storage facilities are online. That means the environment — habitat, watersheds, ecosystems, fish, wildlife, birds and listed species — will enjoy more than 2.5 million acre-feet of new water compared to the present water supply.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Will Hurt Agriculture – Especially If It Fails — “It Will Be Open Season On Ag”” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: Isn’t it already? Can anyone employed in agriculture or dependent on it say with a straight face that they are 100% satisfied with the water supply deliveries and operating uncertainties of the past four years?

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Is An Agriculture Initiative” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: The Water Priorities initiative is for the people of California to get the state’s priorities straight. No bullet train, more safe and reliable water supply, at no additional cost to taxpayers. The most vocal opponents of the measure, while not the majority opinion, are as diverse as the supporters.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Was Written By Small Group In San Joaquin Valley” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: Drafted in collaboration by a leading constitutional attorney, independent regulatory analysts in Sacramento, and High-Speed Rail accountability experts’ attorney, along with members of the California Water Alliance, a statewide non-partisan, non-profit, non-governmental, policy-reform organization. Proponents include Sen. Bob Huff and Board of Equalization Vice Chair Charles Runner, respectively representing Southern California and a majority of the non-Coastal counties of California. Since its filing, it has received significant support from a broad spectrum of the public and from many others across the geography of California.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Not Enough Public Support” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: The January 2016 Stanford University Golden State Poll polled the Water Priorities initiative. Results were highly favorable:

“If you were voting today, would you vote for or against a ballot measure ending the High Speed Rail project and spending that money on water storage projects?”

○ 53% would vote FOR

○ 31% would vote against

○ 16% are unsure

That’s a spread of 22 points, and even if every unsure respondent voted against the measure, it would still pass by 6 per cent. This initiative is a policy reflecting the public’s opinion. Therefore this is not a campaign to convince the public of a policy, but to achieve policy reflecting the public’s opinion.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Only Benefits A Small Aroup” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: The entire population of California will benefit from having a sure course to a reliable and safe water supply aligned with the state’s needs. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources predict that California will have a 4.9 million acre-feet shortfall of available water by 2030 unless something is done. This initiative creates 5 million acre-feet of new surface water, erasing that deficit entirely, providing a benefit for all water users for generations to come.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Asks For Too Much” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: To the contrary, it asks for what is clearly needed: providing a clear path for the state to restore an adequate, safe and reliable water supply for its people. Rather than ask for new bond authority, it causes no increases in taxes, user fees, or other costs, and insulates ratepayers and taxpayers from certain expense that otherwise will happen. It protects equally the people, their food supply, the environment, recreation, and the wildlife, birds, and fish of the Golden State.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Nothing In It For Los Angeles” open=”yes”]

THE FACTS: Los Angeles and the Greater Southland will benefit from both a greater water supply and from enhancements that will capture, treat and recycle storm-water runoff from the Los Angeles, San Gabriel, and other rivers of the L.A. Basin, change already beginning work as unfunded mandates to prevent pollution of the Pacific Ocean and refill the basin’s aquifers. Los Angeles water and sewage ratepayers will avoid costly rate hikes for these remediation projects certain to occur if the proposition is not passed. Los Angeles will also gain many new construction and permanent jobs as a result of building and operating the new facilities. Perhaps most important, the L.A. will gain millions of acre-feet of new water supply regionally, lessening its dependence on imported water,, a necessity for its future economy and employment prospects.

[/toggle][toggle title=”MYTH: Helps Fund Twin Tunnels California WaterFix and Harms the Delta” open=”yes”]THE FACTS: The Water Priorities Initiative’s language names specifically which projects and categories of projects are eligible for funding with redirected High-speed Rail and Proposition 1 Water Bond monies, and explicitly prohibits funds being used for any other purpose, including the Twin Tunnels water diversion project or its ancillary environmental and land-acquisition projects.  The initiative thereby protects existing water flows into the Delta important to fish, aquatic habitats and Delta water quality, and it adds to those flows year-around by capturing water in new storage facilities both north and south of the Delta and releasing them throughout the year. Adding these new surface storage facilities also permits existing reservoirs to hold more water by assisting them in managing floods, so operationally both the existing and new reservoirs will contribute new waters that flow to and through the Delta. [/toggle][/accordian][/fullwidth]