Proponents of 'More Water Now' Pull Initiative Due to Lack of Funds, Signatures

By Dan Bacher | 

On February 1, the corporate agribusiness and water agency proponents of the controversial “More Water Now” initiative announced that they were pulling the initiative from qualifying for the November 2022 ballot due to the lack of funds needed to gather the necessary signatures.

”Today the More Water Now campaign announces an end to its efforts to qualify The Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 for the November state ballot,” according to a press release from the campaign. “Despite crafting an initiative that would solve California’s challenge of chronic and worsening water scarcity, and despite recent polling that indicates over 70 percent of California’s voters support increased state spending on water infrastructure, the campaign has been unable to attract the financial support necessary to gather the required 1.0 million signatures.” 

The initiative proponents said the priority for the campaign now shifts to 2024. “Our steering committee members, all volunteers, remain in contact with hundreds of donors and volunteers who are urging us to try again,” they stated.

“More Water Now,” the corporate front group created to support the initiative, was set up and developed by “The Liberty Lab,” the high-priced P.R. firm behind:

  •    The Recall of Governor Gavin Newsom
  •    Women for Trump
  •    The Keystone XL Pipeline

“They’re financed by powerful multinational corporations and polluters who want a bottomless slush fund to profit at taxpayer expense,” according to Friends of the River (FOR).

FOR had a much different take on the failure of the initiative, pointing out that “swift action and strong leadership” by Friends of the River “proved to be successful in defeating the destructive Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022. “

FOR said the so-called “More Water Now” or “billions for billionaires” ballot measure “would have funded water projects for wealthy landowners and irrigation districts from public funds, likely for decades, and undermine bedrock environmental legal protections to fast-track implementation.”

They further noted that many of the projects are opposed by local communities, tribes and conservationists for the damage they would cause to drinking water, habitats, tribal and public lands 

“Essentially, this measure had the potential to undo much of the work Friends of the River had accomplished in protecting and restoring California rivers the last five decades,” said Ron Stork, Friends of the River’s senior policy advocate. “It was pretty bold, and a significant commitment of taxpayer resources for projects that are ordinarily supposed to be paid for by the beneficiaries of the project.”

As soon as the initiative was made public, Stork said Friends of the River quickly created and led the formal opposition to the initiative by forming the “Stop the Water Scam” political committee in 2021. The group grew to over two dozen organizations that “took clear and united opposition to the threatening initiative through significant education, communications and outreach efforts.”

Despite announcing defeat, the ballot supporters vowed to bring the initiative back in 2024. FOR and other members of the Stop the Water Scam Committee said they not surprised.  FOR Resilient Rivers Director Ashley Overhouse commented,

“After almost 50 years of protecting and restoring California Rivers, Friends of the River is not shocked the outdated mentality of ‘dam our way to paradise’ continues to resurface. We will continue to stress that healthy rivers are a part of the solution to the climate crisis. A state with so many dams and diversions will be of little value in an equitable and climate resilient water future. If the initiative proponents come back, FOR and the other members of the committee will continue to be an experienced, organized and united front.”   

Initiative backers claim on their website that The Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 initiative “funds construction of water supply infrastructure and water conservation programs to end water scarcity in California forever” for “an estimated $50 billion over the next ten years (less than this fiscal year’s state budget surplus).”

But according to opponents, the initiative “creates an indefinite slush fund managed by unelected bureaucrats to pay for wasteful projects long backed by powerful special interests. It’s a scam on California taxpayers, a throwback to the days of enormous water projects that benefit few but are paid for by all of us. It’s corporate welfare at its worst.”  

It would divert 2 percent of the state’s General Fund every year to build water projects without legislature review. In 2021-22, that would amount to $3.92 billion. According to the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst[s Office, it would cost more than $100 billion to the state’s taxpayers. 

Groups joining FOR in the campaign against the initiative include the Sierra Club California, California Indian Environmental Alliance, Society of Native Nations, Idle No More, Restore the Delta, Azul, Golden State Salmon Association, Sunrise Movement OC, California Coastal Protection Network, Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Orange County Coastkeeper, The River Project, Social Eco Education, California Senior Advocates League, Defenders of Wildlife, Desal Response Group, Environmental Water, North Coast Rivers Alliance, Planning and Conservation League, Protect American River Canyons, Save the American River Association, Southern California Watershed Alliance, Tuolumne River Trust and Water Foundation.

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