The argument is about who's going to pay for the multibillion-dollar dam construction. The water buffalos running irrigation and urban districts need to get over the notion that general taxpayers will foot up to half the cost.
Reservoirs should be mostly paid for by water users through higher rates. The state general fund — fed by all taxpayers—could kick in, say, 10%. And that should be included in any bond proposal.
Ironically, Brown's drought declaration will provide momentum for a November water bond measure that he sought to avoid while seeking reelection. The governor privately tells people he desires an "uncluttered" ballot — and specifically doesn't want it to include a water bond.
Many Capitol players theorize he merely doesn't want a water bond proposition to become a referendum on his controversial twin-tunnel scheme. And it very well could.
But Rendon thinks the time is ripe for a bond.
"The lack of snowpack and rainfall may whet the public appetite for a water bond," he says, adding: "It's almost impossible to talk about water without using puns."
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) will propose legislation to tap into bond money previously approved but unused. There's about $1 billion available, he says, and thinks lawmakers should be able to spend at least half for various recycling, storm water, groundwater and conservation projects.
"Water is on the minds of people for a good reason," Steinberg says. "These conditions create a window of opportunity we don't want to miss."
Brown, in his proposed state budget, also included $619 million for a "water action plan" to improve efficiency and conservation.
In making the drought official, the governor noted that the last calendar year was California's driest on record. "We're in an unprecedented, very serious situation," he said.
"We can't make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that drought now threatens."
And for the future opportunities to flow from flooding.