In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 3, a state water bond measure that provides funds for many different purposes related to protecting our watersheds, habitats, wildlife, fish, and environment while fixing our water supply’s infrastructure.
California has the largest agricultural output and greatest crop diversity of any state, and it is not a stretch to say that California’s water is the keystone to our nation’s food supply. Since the mid-1980s, California’s farmers and ranchers have more than doubled how much food and other crops they produce, all the while aggressively cutting back on how much water they use.
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Currently over half of all of California’s developed water supply is used to protect various elements of the environment and only about 10 percent is used by humans. Four out of every 10 gallons used makes it possible for California farmers to feed our state, our nation and large regions of the world.
California’s farmers now conserve and therefore use less water than all 40 million of us Californians use each year to drink, bathe, wash our clothes, flush our toilets and water our lawns and landscapes. They do so, despite cutting the acreage they farm and ranch by 6.5 million acres since 1992.
Farms run on soil and water. Farms — and all Californians — need a safe, reliable and healthy source of water to work their agricultural magic and economic miracles. For more than 20 years, they have been shortchanged by the state’s failure to increase its water supply.
A vast imbalance exists between the amount of water needed and how much water has been delivered. That means there is a systemic imbalance of 3.5 million acre-feet per year between need and actual deliveries of water from the State Water Project.
Passing Proposition 3 will fund infrastructure improvements that increase the amount of water that the state can deliver. It also improves the system so that the state can more easily move water to where water is most needed, whether for families, communities, food producers or the environment.
The most notable of these fixes will be the Friant-Kern Canal running through the San Joaquin Valley. Over the past few years, the canal has lost half of its water capacity en route to Kern County. Proposition 3 funds will enable improvements to be made to the canal, bringing it back to full capacity. Unlike the last water bond passed in 2014 where funds filtered through a special state commission, funds from Proposition 3 for the Friant-Kern Canal will go directly from the Department of Water Resources to the Friant Water authority for distribution to restore the conveyance.
Voters will go to the polls and may wonder if another water bond measure is worthwhile. A long list of those who support and endorse Proposition 3 say yes, it is. They include elected officials, community leaders, water experts, environmental groups, urban water utilities and farmers.
Register to vote and exercise this fundamental American right on Nov. 6. Your vote counts. When it comes to solving California’s water deficit and keeping food on our state and nation’s tables — vote yes on Proposition 3.
Buddy Mendes is county supervisor for District 4 and vice chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority.