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.


Yes, this set of ballot initiatives would be awful for the natural environment. Thank Bob it looks like it's going down to defeat. Dam(n)s? You've got to be kidding. What we need is to dismantle them, not build new ones. Stealing water from the Delta to give to agribusiness and southern California? Forget it!

What should be on the ballot is an initiative that would require agriculture interests to use recycled water only for irrigation and to not grow water intensive crops like cotton, which don't belong in semi-arid areas like California.

Feinstein is a problem, but she always has been. While she passes some good environmental legislation, like protecting deserts in southern California. she is far too friendly with corporate interests like agribusiness. She is planning to add a rider to some bill that would allow agribusiness to ignore the Endangered Species Act in order to pump water out of the Delta. I sure hope we can stop that, because that law is the only thing that reduced the amount of water being stolen.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Feb. 20, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

Hope you don't buy anything from your local supermarket...prices will sky-rocket...and then maybe you'll need to eat those smelt you "saved". Much better to not use a California resource and send it out to sea....soon man will be the endangered species, he already is the endangered intelligence....

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

Guest's response to my comment is the typical anti-environmental response. First, try to get people hysterical by appealing to their most selfish interests like money, even if there is no basis for your claim. Then make a totally false reference to humans becoming endangered, even though that's the exact opposite of reality.

In fact, humans are THRIVING. There are more than 6.8 billion people on Earth and that gross overpopulation is still growing. In stark contrast, because of humans we are now in the Sixth Great Extinction, caused solely by humans, that is causing the extinction of at least 30,000 species per year, three every second. The only thing, other than geological time, that threatens the human species is humans' selfish, short-sighted behavior that is destroying the natural environment. But humans are threatening the entire planet.

Even if restricting or eliminating pumping water out of the Delta, which is an extremely ecologically destructive practice, were to cause food prices to increase, there are much better ways to deal with that increase than destroying an ecosystem. Government could subsidize buying produce for people who financially need it -- no subsidizing processed garbage, otherwise known as junk food -- for example. If your first reaction to a problem is to destroy the natural environment, you are part of the problem. And if humans are causing the problem, human behavior needs to change.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Feb. 21, 2010 @ 9:56 am