Poll: Voters give $11 billion water bond thumbs down

The tiny, endangered delta smelt often gets swept into water pumps -- and California water wars.
Image from U.S> Bureau of Reclamation

By Rebecca Bowe

There is very weak support across political and geographic boundaries in California for a proposed $11 billion water bond that will go on the November ballot, according to the results of a poll released yesterday.

Just 34 percent of respondents said they would vote yes on the proposed $11 billion bond, while 55 percent said they would vote no. A more detailed breakdown revealed that 32 percent of likely voters indicated that they would definitely vote no, while only 12 percent said they would definitely vote yes.

“This bond is in deep trouble,” said Ben Tulchin of Tulchin Research, the firm that conducted the poll. “No bond has ever won statewide that started with a majority against it. It faces a real uphill battle.” Tulchin Research conducted the poll at the request of groups opposing the bond. The poll surveyed 600 likely voters across California, asking respondents to share their opinions after reading them the title and summary.

Tulchin, who has conducted polls for bonds and ballot initiatives throughout California, said support for proposals typically start at a high point and then decline as the election date nears. “In this case, the bond is starting at a low point,” he said. “In general, you want to see support around 60 percent” to win on a proposal, he said. “This is nothing near that.”

The proposed bond would include funding for a variety of water-infrastructure projects including new dams and reservoirs. Its primary backers include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who last year said he would reject any water bill that didn’t include a plan to fund new water-storage projects, and major agricultural interests who are concerned about secure water availability for irrigation purposes.

Mark Schlosberg, of San Francisco-based Food & Water Watch, opposes the bond.

“It’s the wrong bond, at the wrong time, and it does the wrong thing,” Schlosberg told the Guardian. He described it as a measure that could result in giveaways to corporate interests, such as developers of major desalination facilities. Some $1 billion of the bond is earmarked to go toward water recycling or desalination projects.

Schlosberg said he expects big agriculture and other backers to spend “tens of millions” in support of the proposed bond. But in the face of high unemployment and cuts to education, public safety and other services, “We can’t afford to spend $11 billion on this boondoggle,” he said.

Meanwhile, Congressional representatives have been airing concerns regarding water policy too. According to this post on Calitics, four members of the house recently sent a letter to Sen. Diane Feinstein blasting her plan to introduce legislation to speed pumping out of the Delta.