Proposition 3

Bonds to Fund Water-Related Projects

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Would authorize $8.877 billion in state general obligation bonds for various water-related infrastructure and environmental projects. It would fund projects for water Supply and quality, watershed, fish, wildlife, water conveyance, and groundwater sustainability and storage. Proposition 3 is an initiative statute.

Fiscal Impact: Would increase state costs to repay bonds, averaging $430 million per year over 40 years. Local government would save on water-related projects as a result, likely averaging a couple hundred million dollars annually over the next few decades.

Semi-official results:

Yes: 1,917,688 (47.1%)

No: 2,150,013 (52.9%)



Proponents of Proposition 3 argue that it secures safe, reliable, and clean water for California. They believe that it will provide safe drinking water; repair unsafe dams, provide drought protection; improve water quality in our oceans, bays, and rivers; capture, treat, and reuse stormwater and provide water for people, farms, and the environment.

A YES vote on this measure means: The state could sell $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund various water and environmental projects.


Opponents of Proposition 3 argue that the measure gives money to lots of organizations, but will not produce one drop of new, usable water, and that the interest payments on the bonds will double the amount that has to be repaid to bond holders.

A NO vote on this measure means: The state could not sell $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund various water and environmental projects.

In Depth


Californians Get Water From Several Sources. Most of the water used for drinking and farming in California comes from rain and melted snow. The areas where these streams and rivers begin are referred to as “watersheds.” California has built dams, reservoirs, and canals to store water and deliver it around the state. Water is also pumped from underground (referred to as “groundwater”), especially during dry years when not as much rain and snow falls. A small share of the state’s water comes from other sources, such as cleaning and reusing the wastewater that households and businesses send into sewers (referred to as “water recycling”).

Most Spending on Water Is by Local Governments. Local government agencies—usually water districts, cities, and counties—fund most of the projects that provide clean water for people to drink, supply water for farming, and protect communities from floods. These agencies spend about $25 billion each year on these types of water-related activities. Residents pay for the majority of this spending when they pay their water and sewer bills.

Voter-Approved Bonds Are a Common Source of State Funding for These Projects. The state mainly uses general obligation (GO) bonds and the state’s General Fund to pay for water and environmental projects. GO bonds are a way to borrow money. Voters give the state permission to sell bonds to investors, and the state uses that money as “up-front” funding for projects. The state then repays the investors over time, with interest, from the General Fund—the state’s main operating account, which also pays for education, prisons, health care, and other services. (For more information on the state’s use of bonds, see Overview of State Bond Debt from LAO.) Since 2000, voters have approved about $31 billion in GO bonds in statewide elections to pay for different types of water and environmental projects. Of this amount, roughly one-third was still available to pay for new projects as of June 2018. This includes $4 billion that was approved by voters through Proposition 68 in June 2018.

Proposition 3 Proposal

$8.9 Billion Bond for Water and Environmental Projects. This proposition allows the state to sell $8.9 billion in new general obligation bonds for the following water and environmental projects:

  • Protect, restore, and improve the health of watershed lands: $2.495 billion
  • Improve and increase the water supply: $2.130 billion
  • Improve habitats for fish and wildlife: $1.440 billion
  • Upgrade water facilities such as dams, canals, and reservoirs: $1.227 billion
  • Clean up, recharge, and manage groundwater: $1.085 billion
  • Reduce flood risk: $500 million

Source: LAO Analysis of Proposition 3


Visit Ballotpedia for summary data from recent polls and links to the complete published polls.

Berkeley IGS Polls

Voter Resources

Official California Documents

Official Voter Guide

Prop 69 - California Official Voter Guide

Campaign Finance Information

Voter's Edge Campaign Contributions: Total money raised, size of contributions, and top contributors

Power Search: Access and download data from the Secretary of State's CAL-ACCESS System

Nonpartisan Analysis


Authorizes Bonds to Fund Projects for Water Supply and Quality, Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Water Conveyance, and Groundwater Sustainability and Storage. Legislative Analyst's Office.

Ballot Measure Guide - Prop 3. Berkeley IGS.

"Video Voter Series - Proposition 3" from Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College
"Video Voter Series - Proposition 3" from Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College
"Proposition 3 Explained in Under 1 Minute" from CALMatters
"Proposition 3 Explained in Under 1 Minute" from CALMatters
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