The San Joaquin Valley big boys are trying to get an initiative onto the 2022 ballots. They call it More Water Now; the proposition is to designate 2% of the general fund for water projects until the new projects yield 5MAF. Here are a couple op-eds against it. Here is an advocate’s case for it. (I have to say. Don Wright is the best possible advocate for anything Big Ag wants. He is so painfully sincere in his belief that they’re doing a good thing.) I assume all the good governance people will hate this initiative for ballot-box budgeting. I assume that water people will hate it because it funds all the projects that can’t be built because the water they yield is too expensive, even after it does away with environmental protection. Fine, whatever.
You might think that I would be sputtering outraged at the sheer gall of the initiative backers. Designate 2% of California’s general fund, the money that all taxpayers put into the state, for water projects that would primarily serve rich farmers in the San Joaquin Valley? (Because you know the first thing they’ll propose is their disaster of a Water Blueprint.) You are right. I would be, if it were the first time I’ve seen this. But it isn’t! Those rich fucks proposed something even worse a year ago! Summer of 2020, the even worse proposal was a 0.5% tax increase on the eight San Joaquin counties. I was beside myself then. I only consoled myself by imagining that the 0.5% tax earned the eight counties a substantial share in all farm proceeds or perhaps outright ownership off all lands that took irrigation water from new water projects. Now that would justify a general tax increase.
I don’t know whether the More Water Now initiative will get on the ballot or pass. I’ve given up on predictions. But if we’re talking about initiatives, I have one to propose. I think we should pass an initiative that sets a rigorous priority for “reasonable use” (municipal>environmental>ag) and states that it is not reasonable to allow water right holders to take water if a higher priority isn’t fully served. I believe that would allow us to sidestep our disaster of a water rights system without being a taking, since water rights have always been subject to a reasonable use restriction. I think an initiative like that could pass readily, since it is pure self-interest for nearly all of the voters in CA. I hadn’t really understood the extent of people’s resentment towards almonds until I heard the applause on this Bill Maher segment. I had thought that you and I shared a refined, hand-crafted, artisan resentment, available only to connoisseurs of obscure blogs. But no. Seems like lots of Californians are ready to change our water rights system to something that works better for all of us. So if there’s gonna be an initiative, we can do a lot better than More Water Now.