The Public Water Now initiative known as Measure J was brought to the ballot in November 2018. To qualify over 11,000 signatures were collected.
Voters passed Measure J by 56%. It required the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) to conduct a feasibility study as a first step to get the facts on a public buyout of Cal Am. If the study showed that a public buyout was financially feasible and in the public interest, MPWMD was mandated to pursue the buyout of Cal Am’s local system. MPWMD would become our new public water owner.
The buyout was found to be feasible in late 2019. In April 2023, MPWMD made Cal Am an offer of $449 million. Cal Am refused to sell and in October 2023, the MPWMD board of directors voted to buyout Cal Am using eminent domain.
Measure J affects all water users served by Cal Am on the Monterey Peninsula - Monterey, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Carmel Highlands, Sand City and Pebble Beach.
Measure J does NOT increase the cost of water on the Peninsula. Measure J does not in any way interfere with new water supplies. Measure J does NOT raise property taxes.
The purchase of Cal Am would be paid for by a 30 year bond, which would be paid back on our water bills. The purchase cost would be offset by the $19 million annually that Cal Am now takes in corporate profit and pays in taxes. But until a purchase price is set by a jury no one can say how much lower our water costs will be.
Across the U.S. 87% of consumers get their water from publicly owned water systems. The trend toward public ownership is growing due to lower costs and local control. The experience of other communities who have taken their water back from private ownership supports the fact that publicly owned water is less expensive.
According to the 2015/2017 study done by Food & Water Watch, the Monterey Peninsula has the most expensive water in the country. They found that the average cost of publicly owned water across the country was $315 a year, while the annual average for privately owned water was $500 or 59% higher.
In March 2017, Food & Water Watch reported that the Peninsula’s annual cost was $1202. This was almost 4 times the average for publicly owned water across the country! The study was based on a moderate monthly water use of 5,000 gallons (60,000 gallons annually), which would be tier 2 water use under Cal Am’s system of billing. See the study here.
Please contact us if you have questions.
See full text of Measure J, below.