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Proposition 3, the 2018 water bonds: what you need to know

The 2018 election will have voters decide Proposition 3, which could mean billions of dollars for water infrastructure projects throughout the state.

The 2018 election will have voters decide on billions of dollars for water infrastructure projects throughout the state.

Proposition 3 would allow $8.87 billion in funding for projects relating to water supply, water quality, watershed lands, fish and wildlife, and groundwater sustainability. This large amount of money gets split among six different categories, which have individual subcategories of their own.

What does the proposition do?

It allows the government to sell bonds to fund water infrastructure projects.

Here’s where some of that money is going:

Watershed lands-

They’ll get $2.5 billion in funding for projects that improve the conditions of watershed lands. This means protecting or improving the supply and quality of water that comes from the lands. Specific projects would include:

  • $250 million for the forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
  • $200 million for the Salton Sea.

Water supply-

This category gets $2.1 billion to fund projects that increase the amount of water available for people to use. Specific projects for this category include:

  • $550 million for collecting and cleaning rainwater
  • $500 million for cleaning drinking water
  • $400 million for recycling wastewater
  • $300 million for water conservation activities.

Fish and wildlife habitat-

Under this category, there will be $1.5 billion for improving fish and wildlife habitat. These projects could include increases to the amount of water flowing into a wetland or river or even buying undeveloped land to keep it in a natural state.

  • $400 million will go to help native fish species in the Central Valley
  • $300 million for salmon and steelhead trout
  • $280 million for migratory birds.

Water facility upgrades-

This category has $1.2 billion going toward making connections and repairs to existing dams, canals, and reservoirs. The funding is for four specific projects in certain areas of California.

  • $750 million for repairs to the Madera and Friant-Kern canals
  • $250 million for canals and other projects connecting reservoirs and communities in the San Francisco Bay region
  • $200 million to repair the state-owned Oroville Dam in Butte County
  • $5 million planning changes for the North Bay Aqueduct serving Solano and Napa Counties


$1.1 billion will go to projects related to groundwater storage, activities to clean groundwater, and to help groundwater recharge.

Flood protection-

$500 million will go to projects that reduce risk from floods. This can include projects that expand floodplains where water can spread without causing too much harm.

Where does that money come from?

The money will come from bonds that are sold by the government to investors. To repay the bonds, California would be looking at average costs of about $430 million annually over the next 40 years. Estimates place the total to repay the bond at $17.3 billion.

Local governments would be expected to have savings that average a “couple hundred million dollars annually over the next few decades.”

One more before you go ... If Props 1-4 all pass, California taxpayers would pay more than $32 billion over the next four decades to finance $16 billion of spending right now. It's up to you to decide if the spending is worth it:

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