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Yes on Prop. 1: State and county can’t afford not to approve it

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For the past half-century, California has fallen behind in adequately planning for our water future by not investing in water storage and improved infrastructure.

This failure, combined with the persistent drought, has led to the current statewide water crisis and threatens the future of our agriculture. That could change on Tuesday with voter approval of Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion bond measure titled the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. It would provide funds for critically needed investments such as $2.7 billion for water storage, $725 million for water recycling and $1.5 billion for streams and watershed protection.

Sonoma County needs investment in all these areas. We need increased capacities of Lake Mendocino and off-stream reservoirs as well as aquifer recharge; ditto for wastewater treatment, storage and conveyance; and continued innovative work to improve fish habitat while allowing for sufficient stream flow to meet the human needs, as is being done in Dry Creek by the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Some people may question the measure and ask whether we can afford it. The question should be whether we can afford not to approve it. Without investment in water infrastructure, we will have to cope with water shortage through further water conservation.

The agricultural community has already reduced its water consumption by several-fold through such means as the conversion of overhead watering to drip irrigation, the introduction of soil moisture sensors and precision irrigation and the practice of deficit irrigation where plants are given less water than they lose by evapo-transpiration.

Further reduction in irrigation water use will come only at a devastatingly high cost. Yet the pressure on agriculture not to use water keeps mounting as evidenced by the Russian River frost protection regulation, Upper Russian River water rights curtailment and potentially by the implementation of the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

California’s legislative analyst has said that repayment of the bonds raised through Proposition 1 would cost approximately $360 million each year for the next 40 years. That is an increase of only one-third of 1 percent of the state’s current general fund budget.

Furthermore, the analyst estimates that Proposition 1 will save local agencies approximately $200 million a year. Can we afford not to approve Proposition 1?

Proposition 1 is already supported by a growing list of Democrats and Republicans and organizations and newspapers throughout our state.

Those organizations in support include the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Chamber of Commerce, the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Defense Council and more. This lineup of organizations crosses traditional boundary lines on water issues that have kept them from agreeing on much of anything. It may signal the dawn of a new era when a positive, common-sense approach overcomes the divisive negativism.

Please vote yes on Proposition 1 and play a vital role in helping to secure water for California’s future and the future of agriculture.

Tito Sasaki is president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

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