Incredibly, the legislature was able to come together to pass a water package. Democrats and Republicans together. Farmers and environmentalists alike. North and South in agreement. Historic and implausible, yes. What it’s not… is done.

To accurately describe the package in its current state, we might include the following: nada, zero, zip. That is, unless we can get the voters to agree. Unfortunately,
California voters are frustrated and fed-up. Yet, these are the people who will be asked to trust the government with an $11.4 billion.

Is it good timing? No. Could there be worse timing? Probably not. But anyone plugged into California politics, policy, and history will tell you that it just might be the only time. When California has recovered from this recession (and we will) and has reformed the way we function, govern and balance our budget (and we will), California will still need water. Our children will need water. And their children will need water. This issue will not go away. It cannot be put off.

So, is California broke? Yes. Can we afford this right now? No. But we can all agree that there is a time and a place when going into debt is not only necessary, but absolutely vital. Liken the water bond debt to the collapse of your roof, or a surgery to save your life while you are unemployed. You have to find a way to take care of the problem because the only thing worse than doing it would be to not do it. We must find a way to make Californians understand that this water bond must pass.

I think Californians can and will wake up to the need for water. But it will not be easy. Right now, somewhere in sunny southern California people are basking by their pools and families in parts of Northern California are washing cars and watering their sidewalks on 80-degree afternoons. Do these folks see the pressing need to spend $11 billion to rebuild our water system? Not as long as their faucets turn on. So it will be the job of those who understand the absolute desperate need for this water bond to explain it to those who do not. And if we cannot come together to do this we will fail to seize on a moment in our state’s history to repair California that may never come again.

It will take tremendous efforts, outreach and dollars to make the case for the water bond. But it can be done. The strategy: make voters understand, between now and November 5, 2010, that this is the only time to solve a huge problem. We must find a way to educate Californians that restoring, rebuilding and re-designing our state’s water infrastructure system is a now or never deal. We cannot afford it – but we cannot afford to wait.