EDITORIAL: Brown's 'no-frills' water bond offers no help for California

In case you haven’t noticed, there are two versions of the contemporary Gov. Jerry Brown.

There’s the one who is optimistic about California’s future, brags that our state is “back” and reminds us that we are part of a $2 trillion economy — the eighth-largest in the world.

This is the Jerry Brown who believes in high-speed rail and is willing to go to the mat to keep the project chugging along.

Then there’s the pessimistic Gov. Brown. He lectures us about California’s “wall of debt” and tries to convey to voters that he is the only adult in the room who can be trusted with balancing the public’s checkbook.

Unfortunately for everyone dealing with the devastating consequences of California’s historic drought, the pessimistic Jerry Brown wants to take a “no-frills” $6 billion water bond to the November ballot.

Our reaction: If there were a drop of extra water left in California, we’d say the governor is all wet.

A $6 billion bond — with just $2 billion dedicated to building new reservoirs — is the equivalent of trying to put out a four-alarm fire by spitting through a straw.

California’s continued recovery and a prosperous future are dependent on securing sufficient water for residents, agriculture, industry and the environment. As our colleagues on The Modesto Bee Editorial Board opined on Wednesday, “More than we need fast trains, more than we need better roads, even more than we need better classrooms, we need more water. And if Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t prepared to spend more than $2 billion on creating additional storage, then he isn’t serious about helping us find that water.”

How far is Brown off the mark?

That $2 billion won’t build even one reservoir. With growing bipartisan support to construct dams at Temperance Flat north of Fresno and in the Sacramento Valley, there should be a minimum of $3 billion (and arguably more) for above-ground storage of fish-friendly cold water in the bond.

The truth is, California needs to make a broad array of investments to secure its water future. These include restoring the Delta to protect water quality, fish and wildlife; cleaning up contaminated groundwater; providing clean, healthy drinking water for rural communities; and creating a system with the teeth to sensibly regulate groundwater pumping so that we can begin restoring overdrafted aquifers. And, yes, this also means building dams so we can capture Sierra runoff that because of climate change is likely to wildly fluctuate in years to come.

It’s time to get real, Gov. Brown.

There is no legitimate reason we can’t have two new dams and high-speed rail, too.