Californians to vote on $7.5bn reservoir referendum

Californian citizens are to vote in November on whether the state should take out a water bond worth $7.5bn. The measure was unveiled on Tuesday by Governor Jerry Brown and passed by the state legislature yesterday. 

If the referendum is passed, the money will go towards the construction of reservoirs; it will also fund the cleaning of contaminated groundwater, water efficiency and management, recycling and the promotion of water-saving technologies. 

The original plan was to ask voters to approve an $11bn package, but this was withdrawn when it became apparent that it would be unlikely to be approved by voters. Republicans had pressed for a $3bn bond to be used solely for reservoirs. The sum finally agreed on was $7.1bn, which was supplemented by previous bonds worth $425m. The redirecting of these existing bonds will also requires voter approval. 

Governor Brown, who is a Democrat, said: "We’ve got a real water bond, and we’ve got Democrats and Republicans that are more unified than I’ve ever seen, probably, in my life. It was an amazing convergence over a big idea, and the big idea is that the future of California needs a lot of water and we’ve got to use it in the best way possible." 

The agreement sidestepped the controversy over Brown’s plan to bore two massive water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, allowing water to flow to farms and cities in southern California without passing through the Delta’s precarious ecosystem. The final deal did not provide funding for this scheme.  

California is currently in the midst of the worst drought in its history.

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