The California Water Commission at a recent meeting discussed options for repairing and maintaining conveyance systems in the San Joaquin Valley. While most funding comes from water districts, Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California laid out a few options for the state, such as:

  • analyzing and "shedding light on" what makes a smart strategy,
  • continuing to fill funding gaps through bonds,
  • spurring collaborations,
  • facilitating resource pooling and low-cost borrowing,
  • aligning the regulatory approach “to make it easier for folks to use the grid well.”

Hanak worried a proposed valley-wide sales tax to pay for upgrades would be too regressive, impacting vulnerable populations hardest.

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Doug Obegi of the Natural Resources Defense Council called it magical thinking to believe the state would build new conveyance projects. He supported the beneficiary-pays model to “ensure that we are really making smart investments with limited money.”

Justin Fredrickson of the California Farm Bureau said beneficiaries “are not necessarily averse” to that approach. But it requires a bottom-up strategy and more public investment.

Scott Hamilton, a consultant for the Water Blueprint, argued that without those investments, a million acres of farmland will be fallowed, hurting tax revenues for local, state and federal governments.

The commission has announced a listening tour on conveyance needs and funding options, through the lens of the governor’s Climate Resilience Portfolio. The commission has yet to release dates.