Congratulations are in order for the California Water Alliance raising more than $500,000 in an effort to qualify the ballot initiative to build more water storage in California. That’s no small feat in our community, especially one so impacted by the drought.

Years ago, I learned that some of the most important analysis that can be done is that marginal analysis. Simply, it looks at the additional benefits or costs associated with an activity – gaining enough signatures to qualify a ballot and eventually win in this case.

In politics, this takes money – lots of it. Let’s run the numbers on this effort.

The better question is how to get the measure passed once it qualifies.

Consultants note that based on past successful initiative campaigns to run a winning effort in 2016 would cost in excess of $17 million.  And that is if it polls high (which this initiative does not). Reasonable people agree this ballot measure will be contested not just by others in agriculture but more importantly by the environmental community concerned about the constitutional amendment. The Governor can also be expected to have an opinion.

Is this doable – highly unlikely? Agriculture has never raised these millions of dollars.  For 2016, it is an impossibility. For 2018, a pipedream.

Now let’s look at the incremental benefits.

How much funding will be left from high-speed rail and Prop 1 in 2018? It’s hard to tell, but certainly far less and maybe not much at all. Certainly high-speed rail will consume a large portion of its bond funds, which are just a small portion of the total cost of the project. The California Water Commission is on track to accept proposals soon for projects it intends to fund.

One should also ask if the constitutional amendment proposed in the ballot measure would fix the challenges of pumping water north to south. Current restrictions are severely limiting pumping, even with excess water spilling out of Shasta, Oroville and Folsom. In fact, the constitutional amendment, if passed, would affect only  the California State Constitution. It is the federal Endangered Species Act that is impacting the ability to pump. The Dam-Train ballot measure would have no effect on the ability to move water through California’s water system.

With the ability to raise critical funds in serious doubt, impossible to raise dollars needed if the measure qualifies for 2018 and no improvement in the ability to pump water, this effort is really about something more.

A reasonable question to ask after this analysis is if the ballot measure proponents are fighting just to fight and doing it with other farmers’ money?