Will Proposition 1 solve California's water crisis?

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- In November, California residents will vote on Proposition 1. The multi-billion-dollar water bond is supposed to help solve the state's water crisis, but opponents say it's a big waste of money.

As the state's water supplies continue to drop, Proposition 1 could change the way we deal with water for decades to come.

"We certainly are not prepared for the next drought, and we are barely getting through this one," said Jay Ziegler with the Nature Conservancy.

If enacted by voters, Proposition 1 would authorize $7.5 billion in borrowing to expand several reservoirs and build new dams. Proponents say it would also restore watersheds and repair the water supply infrastructure.

"We really see the importance of this bond and striking a much better balance in providing for water supply for fish and wildlife as well as for people," Ziegler said.

However, opponents say those dams could actually hurt some fish and wildlife. A group called Food & Water Watch held a protest Thursday in Beverly Hills outside the home of the owner of an agricultural business. People say the new dams and reservoirs would be used to help these businesses and not solve the water problems.

"This spends a lot of money, $2.7 billion on building dams for special corporate interests, and there is no water to put in those dams. If there was, all of that water is earmarked for corporations," said Brenna Norton with Food & Water Watch.

Proposition 1 also includes money to clean up underground aquifers across the state as well as for storm water capture. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says that is a major benefit for Southern California.

"After an earthquake, for instance, the California aqueduct goes across the San Andreas fault. We might not have water for a year and a half from that source. But if we can clean up the San Fernando Valley, take care of some of the natural wells that are here, this bond will help us keep water in Los Angeles from Los Angeles," the mayor said.

Norton agreed that Proposition 1 could be beneficial, but it's not a fail-safe plan.

"There is a very small amount of money that could potentially go toward, for instance, cleaning up the San Fernando Valley aquifer here, but it's not enough and it's not guaranteed. It's kind of like asking someone to buy the whole grocery store when they only need like a box of crackers," said Norton.

State records show a committee opposing the bond has raised less than $50,000 for the campaign, raising doubts about opponents' ability to reach voters in a state where a week of TV ads can cost several million dollars. Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown has said he intends to campaign to build support for it.

The state arm of the Sierra Club has remained conspicuously neutral, though a statement on its website says bluntly, "We hate the dam funding in the bond."

The group says the proposal has worthy provisions, including $1.3 billion for watershed restoration, but in an era of climate change and unstable precipitation "this bond will never be acceptable when almost one-third of the money is set for more wasteful and destructive dam building."

Repaying the water bond could cost more than $14 billion over 40 years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

Proposition 1 has bipartisan support in Sacramento. In the Senate and the Assembly, it passed with a nearly unanimous vote. It's now up to the voters to decide in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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