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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Why we need the Water Bond

Uploaded: Sep 24, 2014

Four years ago I attended a presentation at the Carr America Center on the Water Bond that was proposed for the 2010 ballot. I was running for the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) again and wanted to be current on water issues.

The water bond proposed for 2010 was needed to maintain and improve the infrastructure at the Delta, but Governor Brown pulled it from the ballot because he thought there was too much pork in it and it wouldn't pass.

That bond was for over 11 Billion Dollars much of which would go to fixing problems at the Delta which are still in serious need of repair and safety improvements. It also would have provided for more water storage.

Our drought this year was not just caused by lack of rain, but lack of storage for what little rain we had. I still have almost half the water I collected last winter stored in my home systems. The drought would not be as serious this year if more reservoirs had been added in the four years since the last bond measure was pulled from the ballot.

One of the more contentious elements in the 2010 proposal included transferring water from northern California to communities in the central and southern parts of the state.

The new Water Bond on this November's ballot was reduced to slim $7.5B and wording was added keep the money from being used to transfer water from the northern part of the state to the southern. The regional water divide was one of the issues in the bond proposed for 2010.

As you may know, Los Angeles was built in the desert. The southern part of the state is far more thirsty than the northern part. This has been a political hot potato for years. Rent or stream the movie Chinatown for a dramatized version of this issue.

This bond is past due. The Delta is in serious need of repair. We've been living on borrowed time that it would not overflow its boundaries. In a way the drought has been a blessing, keeping the amount of water from breaking through the barriers and flooding the neighboring communities.

There's a very good article from last August in East County Today, a blog about eastern Contra Costa County, centering primarily in Brentwood. Those communities near the Delta are scarily susceptible to flooding if the dams give way. These have been in serious need of repair since before 2010. This water bond is necessary to protect those communities, and our own water sources.

This is not a pork bill. This is not a "Friends of Jerry" bill. Brown took the old one off the ballot in 2010 because it was too laden with special interests. The new bill is lean and mean and really, really needed. It's like the ad for "Pay me now or pay me later." Maintenance and defense are always worth the investment. You really do not want the alternative!

What is it worth to you?


Posted by What about Lulu? , a resident of Birdland,
on Sep 25, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I think we need to Water Bond too.

*** The rest of this comment has been removed because it is irrelevant and offensive.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 26, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

Hi Roz: I was fixin' to draft a blog on Prop 1, but you're in a much better position to have done so. There seemed to be two themes developed by opponents to the water bond Prop: first, a suspicion that monies so approved may be diverted to serve the delta tunnels proposal, and second, that this kind of investment ought to be made -- and paid-for -- in proportion to the volume consumed by beneficial users: households, ag, industry, etc.

The second argument seemed to posit that this is really corporate welfare: paid for by all Californians, but of greatest benefit to Big Ag. -- essentially a state subsidy to corporate farms.

I did not get far enough to make any conclusions in those regards -- your thoughts?

Posted by Tom F, a resident of Castlewood,
on Sep 26, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Whatever helps ole Tom keep his palatial estate green and lush.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 26, 2014 at 1:51 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Tom C,

Good questions. I couldn't figure out any reasons why anyone would object to clean water and protecting the Delta, but there are a lot of politically motivated cranks out there who make up their minds (what little they have) without knowing what anything is about.

The complete text of the bill is in the East County blog article Web Link linked to here and above.

I'm not good at interpreting legalese, but as a Lawyer you would understand that gobbledygook. The state Legislature made certain that there would be no tunnels taking water down south, but there might be conveyance to regional water storage.

Bert Michalczyk, General Manager of DSRSD, told me they have an underground lake in the Fresno area for water storage. So it is possible that water would be transported to underground storage in other regions, but still used locally here. Water agencies make deals with other water agencies to share or buy water from each other for specific uses. That's how DSRSD was able to supply water to Dougherty Valley.

As far as big Ag getting more than their share of water, they pay for the water they get. Also more and more recycled water is being used to irrigate large growing areas, whether grass or crops. Chapter 9 of the Water Bond Bill is on Recycled Water and transporting it to where it can best be used. "c) Dedicated distribution infrastructure to serve residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial end-user retrofit projects to allow use of recycled water."

DSRSD is one of the early adopters and leaders in water recycling in California. They offer regular tours of the recycling plant in Pleasanton. I went on one of the first ones last year. It's worth going down there to see what they are doing for anyone interested in water treatment.

Water is one of the few things, like air, that we need to live. I believe the longest anyone has survived without water was a woman trapped in a car for a week. She was still alive (barely) when found. I could live without food for at least six months but not more than a few days without water.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Sep 26, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Drought Is The New Normal: Web Link

Americans may not much choice re: the "new normal"

I believe that sewage purification will be the solution to the water shortage.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 26, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

"As far as big Ag getting more than their share of water, they pay for the water they get."

I guess my question is whether the cost Big Ag -- and individual homeowners -- pay includes something for these capital improvements. I don't know much about the pricing of water, which may be quite complicated (BTW, have you read Cadillac Desert? Author's contention is that water is The central theme of how the west was won. Really eye-opening read.)

For instance, you paid-for a rainwater storage system at your house, and presumably you have a few ongoing maintenance and "delivery" expenses. Your total cost includes both the pipes and tanks, etc. and the current upkeep. If the taxpayers had picked up the bill for the system, your water costs would be a Lot less than they are, because you wouldn't have to amortize that investment cost over the gallons you use.

One a Much larger scale, the taxpayers will be deciding whether to go into debt to fund these system upgrades. I wonder whether Ag will end up with a much bigger benefit than they pay-for. Or, to use a sports analogy -- are we building a stadium for a pro sports team to profit-from?

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Tom C.

Again good questions, and I don't have enough info to answer them. On the other hand, as someone else pointed out, Agriculture is one of California's major industries, and that adds to our economy. So one way or another the money is returned to the state, either via taxes or jobs (not always the best paying jobs but jobs nevertheless).

Starving Ag or denying water, would not be in the best interest of our economy, and we all need food (me less than you, because I overeat), but it is still necessary.


"Toilet to Tap" was a big issue in the 2002 and subsequent DSRSD elections. DSRSD was proposing injecting recycled water into the ground water in Pleasanton, which Plutonians voted against in a non-binding referendum.

I opposed TtoT in my first run for the District in 2004, calling it "The Yuck Factor." I've seen that phrase used by others, but I believe I was the first one to use it (I never got credit for it either).

Recycled water is actually purer than Delta water. Everything is filtered out by reverse osmosis, and if it is used for surface irrigation, more is filtered out through the soil as it drains down to underground springs, wells, or storage. It is very safe, but "Yucky" to think about.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Sep 28, 2014 at 10:23 am

Roz - California has had 23 propositions for clean water, safe water, and water storage since 1970. Almost all of these propositions have passed, especially if "clean water" was in the title. What did the citizens of California get for passing these propositions? These were not small ticket items. What will 7 billion get that hasn't already been promised? Instead of just saying that we need to pass this proposition why not be an investigative reporter (which seems to be a quality lacking in all the tri-valley bloggers) and prove that the money spent was actually used for the intended purpose. Knowing California politics most of the money from these propositions was used to line the pockets of supporters of state legislators, increase the number of state agencies filled with non-elected officials, and union activities.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 28, 2014 at 2:24 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


Bloggers are not usually investigative reporters, but I will contact my sources at the Dublin San Ramon Services District to comment on your comment. Since they have already come out in support of this bond measure, I doubt they would reveal any dirty laundry hidden in the package.

You make a lot of claims in your comment, but are those just your beliefs or do you have examples to back them up.

The other water bills you describe were for other water-related projects. Each bill stipulates what it is for, so it helps to read them before voting for them. The text of the current bill is fully reprinted in the East County Today article linked above.

Perhaps I'm naive but I believe it will do most of what it says it will do. The amount of money has been cut way down so there isn't as much to be spread around to other places.


Posted by md, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:18 pm

San Ramon Ob.: "Plutonians"? You xenophobe; how dare you.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 29, 2014 at 3:49 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


Huh? I simply used Cholo's word for Pleasantonians. Or maybe Pleasanton is inhabited by immigrants from Pluto (or Mickey's dog).


Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Sep 29, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Roz - my point is that every other year a proposition has been on the ballot for clean water, safe water, or water storage. Two of these items, clean water and safe water are mandated by the federal government. We should not have to spend extra money for something that should to be budgeted for by our elected officials. The third item, water storage has been taken care of a long time ago. The massive projects in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, were done to guarantee Californians enough water. What hasn't happened and again what should be budgeted for is maintenance of these facilities. Just look around the Bay Area at the number of reservoirs that cannot be filled to capacity because of neglect to properly maintain the dam structure. To answer your question about levees, these levees were built to protect farmland, not residential areas. Now the farmland is gone and replaced by development. The developers paid off the politicians so that the levees were deemed ?safe? for residential. Same for building residential and commercial properties at the base of dams such as Morgan Hill did with Anderson reservoir. Why should we have to spend money to protect people that live in floodplains and at the base of dams. It?s like if you don?t want to hear airplanes don?t live near an airport. And like the airport the levees and dams were built long before developers started to build.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 29, 2014 at 8:12 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


You mentioned projects done from the 20s to the 60s, but the population of California has grown tremendously since then. You even mentioned farmland changing to housing developments. I just received a solicitation from a new organization trying to keep farmland from being developed.

I emailed DSRSD and Zone 7 about past water bills. I'm waiting to hear back from them. I suspect as long as there are droughts in California, there will be water bills on the ballot. Most voters don't remember the last ones and everyone needs clean water.

This current bill was cut down from 11.1B to 7.5B. If another bill for the remaining 3.6B appears on the 2016 ballot, I would agree with you that there's funny business going on.


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