Water FAQ

Did Proposition 1, the Water Bond on the November 2014 ballot, start as a bill?

Yes. On August 13, 2014 Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1471 (Rendon, Atkins, Gatto, Perea, Salas & Gomez) The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.  SB 866 (Wolk, Steinberg & Pavley) was an identical measure.  Both measures were forwarded to the Governor at approximately the same time.  While the Governor chose to sign AB 1471, it is widely acknowledged that both vehicles represented one compromise measure developed by cooperation between both houses of the Legislature and the leadership of both major political parties.  For the text of AB 1471, click here

AB 1471 repealed the $11.14 billion Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012.  That bond language began as SB 2 (Codgill) which was part of the historic five-bill package of water legislation adopted during the California Legislature's Seventh Extraordinary Session in 2009. (For more information of the bills passed during the Seventh Extraordinary Session, please see below.)  The California Constitution provides that the Governor may call the Legislature into special session by proclamation.  A bill passed during an extraordinary session is abbreviated with an X and the session number, either before or after the bill number. (So, for example, SB 2 from the 7th Extraordinary Session will often appear as either SB 2 X7 or SBX7 2.) In August 2010, when it appeared a bond was likely to be unsuccessful due to the slow economy, AB 1265 (Caballero) was passed and signed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger. AB 1265 deleted provisions from SBX7 2 that would have allowed private companies to hold ownership rights in publicly-funded water storage facilities, moved the bond to the November 2012 election, and renamed it to include "Act of 2012."  In 2012 the Legislature determined that the still-sluggish economy meant the bond was unlikely to pass.  AB 1422 (Perea) moved the bond to the November 4, 2014 general election without changing the text.  Thus the bill was still worded as the Act of 2012.

During the 2012-14 Legislative Session nine substantive measures were proposed to reduce and refocus the water bond: AB 1331 (Rendon), AB 1445 (Logue), AB 2043 (Bigelow), AB 2445 (Rendon), AB 2686 (Perea), SB 848 (Wolk), SB 927 (Canella), SB 1250 (Hueso) and SB 1370 (Galgiani). Ordinarily, bills in the second half of the session must make it out of their house of origin by May 30, 2014 or they are considered "dead." However, many of the water bond measures already include urgency clauses because they would need to take effect in time for the November election. Bills with urgency clauses require a 2/3rds vote and are not subject to the same Legislative deadlines as other regular-session bills. So, it is possible that even a measure that is still in its house of origin could later move. In the case of a water bond, the 2/3rds vote requirement of an urgency clause is not the hurdle that it would be for an ordinary bill. Changing the language of the existing bond or putting a new bond measure on the ballot already requires a 2/3rds vote of each house of the Legislature. 

In the end, the existence of so many bond measures allowed a full and robust discussion of the many pressing water-related issues such a bond could address.  Those discussions culminated in bills on the floor of each house, AB 1471 and SB 866, being amended to delete their existing language and replace it with the compromise language.  Each of those bills were passed and concurred in with a 2/3rds vote and went to the Governor's desk.  As a formality, he chose to sign AB 1471 and return SB 866 without his signature since it was an identical measure.  Appearing on the ballot as Proposition 1, the public overwhelmingly supported the compromise language, which passed with 67.2% of the vote.

For historical information on the Assembly water bond process that was used for AB 1331 and helped to develop and focus the bond discussions see the "Water Bond" tab on this web site or directly here: http://awpw.assembly.ca.gov/waterbond

What is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan or "BDCP"?

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process is a stakeholder-driven effort to obtain 50-year endangered species act permits for State Water Project (SWP) operations in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (Bay Delta) by developing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) under the federal Endangered Species Act and a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) under the State Natural Community Conservation Planning Act. The goal of the BDCP is to provide a long-term solution for achieving the "coequal goals" – balancing water supply reliability while improving ecosystem restoration and protection.

If the BDCP process succeeds in crafting a plan that meets NCCP and HCP standards, then the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will issue fifty-year permits that may include some level of "regulatory "assurances." Regulatory assurances mean that if the plan is implemented as approved then no further money, water, or land can be required from the permit holder to address the impacts to species from SWP operations (and all of the other activities covered in the Plan) beyond what is included in the Plan.

Because DWR and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) operate in a coordinated fashion pursuant to a 1986 agreement, a change to DWR's operations also changes the CVPs. In essence, that means the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), which operates the CVP, will need to ask for new federal Endangered Species Act authorization based on their "new" operations that include BDCP. That is why the current BDCP environmental review document is meant to meet both the California Environmental Quality Act (a state law) and the National Environmental Policy Act (a federal law) and why DWR, Reclamation, USFWS and NMFS are all lead agencies.

In 2009, SB 1 X7 (Simitian) from the historic water package of legislation adopted in 2009, made the "coequal goals" law for California and also placed certain requirements on the BDCP process. More can be found out about the 2009 water package, and the five bills that formed the package, below.

For current information on the BDCP process, click here.

What is the Delta Plan and how is it different from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)?

SB 1 X7 (Simitian) included the "Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009" (Delta Reform Act) (Water Code Section 85000 and sequence). The Delta Reform Act included several important state policies, including a policy of reduced reliance on the Delta in meeting California's future water supply needs. Importantly, the Delta Reform Act created a new Delta Governance entity: the Delta Stewardship Council (Council).

The Council is an independent state agency whose 7-member body consists of four appointments by the Governor and two by the Legislature plus the chair of the Delta Protection Commission. The Council was tasked with developing, adopting, and commencing implementation of a long-term plan (the "Delta Plan") which emphasizes the coequal goals of "providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem" as foundation for state decisions as to Delta management. The Delta Plan, which was unanimously adopted by the Council on May 16, 2013, includes, but is not limited to measures, which must:

  • Promote state-wide water conservation, water use efficiency, and sustainable use of water.
  • Improve water conveyance and storage and the operations of both to achieve the coequal goals. Attempt to reduce risks to people, property, and state interests in the Delta by promoting effective emergency preparedness, appropriate land uses, and strategic levee investments.
  • Determine whether state or local agency projects are consistent with the Delta Plan, including the BDCP described above.

The Delta Reform Act also established the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) and the Delta Science Program. The Delta ISB consists of 10 nationally and internationally prominent scientists appointed by the Council. The Delta ISB reports to the full Council and is tasked by the Delta Reform Act with providing the best possible unbiased scientific information to inform water and environmental decision-making in the Delta. In particular, The Delta Reform Act requires the Delta ISB to conduct independent reviews of specific products to be developed in the BDCP process, including the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report being developed pursuant to both the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. The Independent Science Board has also been asked to review proposed BDCP-related water operations.

For the most up-to-date information on the implementation of the Delta Plan or the work of the Delta ISB or Science Program, click here.

What are the Delta Protection Commission and the Delta Conservancy?

The Delta Protection Commission

SB 1 X7 (Simitian) from the 2009 water package of legislation, restructured the Delta Protection Commission, which was an existing state entity, and made the Delta Protection Commission Chair a member of the Delta Stewardship Council. The mission of the Commission is to ensure orderly, balanced conservation and development of Delta land resources and improved flood protection. This includes, but is not limited to, agriculture, wildlife habitat, and recreational activities. SB 1 X7 required the Commission to adopt a Delta Economic Sustainability Plan in order to help inform the Delta Plan. More on the Delta Protection Commission and the Delta Economic Sustainability Plan can be found here.

The Delta Conservancy

Besides restructuring the Delta Protection Commission and creating the Delta Stewardship Council, SB 1 X7 also included the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy Act, creating the Delta Conservancy (Conservancy) in order to implement collaborative and beneficial projects.

The Conservancy describes its mission as leading "efforts that advance environmental protection in the Delta and the economic well-being of Delta residents." The Conservancy's goal is to implement projects that will result in integrated environmental, economic and social benefits. To reach that goal, the Conservancy works with local communities, interested groups and state and federal agencies to seek creative opportunities to address challenges and reach agreement for moving these efforts forward. The Conservancy strives to ensure that programs and projects are prioritized and funded in a balanced manner according to geography and our legislative responsibilities. A link to the Delta Conservancy can be found here.

What was the "Historic Package of Water Legislation" in 2009?

In 2009, the California Legislature took bold steps during the 7th Extraordinary Session by passing a 5-bill package of water legislation that addressed the collapse of the ecosystem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary as well as the overall need for better conservation, management, measurement and enforcement of our State's water resources.

What were the five bills that formed the Water Package?

Each time you see a word highlighted in blue below, you may click that link for additional information.

Senate Bill 1 (Simitian) addressed Delta governance and established the framework to achieve the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply and restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.

Senate Bill 2 (Cogdill) placed an $11 billion bond on the November 2010 ballot for water supply, storage, conservation, sustainability and remediation projects and programs.

Senate Bill 6 (Steinberg) required all California groundwater basins and sub-basins to be regularly and systematically monitored locally and the resulting information made widely available. Senate Bill 7 (Steinberg) required, among other conservation measures, that the State to achieve a 20% reduction in urban per capita water use by 2020.

Senate Bill 8 (Steinberg) increased reporting of water diversion use for certain specified users, added fines, including for willful misstatements or tampering with measuring devices, and provided the State Water Resources Control Board twenty-five new enforcement positions.

Once the water package passed, was that it? Or does the Legislature continue to be involved?

The Legislature continues to be involved by providing oversight. In particular, the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee is one of the standing committees of the Legislature and is tasked with providing policy guidance on matters related to water resources, flood management, fish and game, parks and recreation, and wildlife.

Click here to access agendas, statements, background documents, archived videos and other information from Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee information and oversight hearings.

Can I find out if my water is safe to drink?

Yes. The State Water Resources Control Board, a state agency that falls under the California Environmental Protection Agency, has created a web portal called "My Water Quality," which can be accessed by clicking here.

The web portal is supported by a wide variety of public and private organizations and presents California water quality monitoring data and assessment information. Information can be retrieved by clicking on one of four theme areas:

  • Is our water safe to drink?
  • Is it safe to swim in our waters?
  • Is it safe to eat fish and shellfish from our waters?
  • What stressors and processes affect our water quality?

Can I find out where my water comes from?

Yes. The Water Education Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that provides information about water resource issues, has created a web-based tool that explains where different areas of California get their water – whether from groundwater, surface water, imported supplies or local supplies. You can access the "Where does my water come from?" portal by clicking here.

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