Gov. Jerry Brown touts decades of experience on water policy

Connie Conway, Jerry Brown, Darrell Steinberg

Gov. Jerry Brown, flanked by Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare), left, and former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), holds up the measure he signed to place a $7.5-billion water plan on the November ballot.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown pitched his decades-long political career as an asset in tackling California’s vexing water problems in a speech at Stanford University on Monday, portraying this year’s major water legislation as a continuation of his first gubernatorial term nearly 40 years ago.

Amid the state’s crippling drought, water was a top policy priority this year, including the crafting of a $7.5 billion water bond now on the ballot as Proposition 1. Brown and lawmakers also pushed through the first statewide groundwater regulation law in California’s history, an accomplishment Brown called “quite heroic.”

Oct. 20, 11:27 a.m.: An earlier version of the photo caption accompanying this post described Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as the Senate president pro tem. Steinberg used to hold that position. The current president pro tem is Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Noting he began work on groundwater back in 1978, Brown said “this is not something for a flash in the pan. This is not just for a one-term governor. This is really the work of a four-term governor.”


Continuing on the theme of water policy transcending politics, Brown said one of the “great challenges of democratic governance [is that] we have these elections every four or two years, but the problems don’t get solved with a glib TV ad or the latest du jour controversies or debates.”

Brown laid out a number of steps of his administration’s Water Action Plan, which includes water conservation, ecosystem restoration and fixing the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.

Another step is financing those projects, and Brown said the $7.5 billion water bond currently on the ballot was just a start. 

“It’s going to take investment,” Brown said, estimating the state will need tens of billions of dollars in new infrastructure in the next few decades.


Brown’s remarks came at the start of the New Directions for U.S. Water Policy conference, co-hosted by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.

He ended with a pitch to “vote yes on Prop.1" and told attendees, “Fasten your seat belts. We’re going to have a very exciting ride over the next four years." 

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