Private companies could make a profit by selling water back to the public under a little-noticed provision in California’s $11.1 billion water bond. In a state where water is an especially precious resource, this provision may become controversial as it goes before voters in 2010.

California state Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, introduced the proposal and says it provides the state with flexibility in financing state water projects.

But as California’s population grows and water becomes scarcer than ever, critics worry that giving control of this resource to private companies is a recipe for disaster.

The bond bill doesn’t specifically mention the possibility that private companies could profit from water storage projects, and few lawmakers, water experts and water privatization opponents even noticed the provision’s inclusion. The bond has already been approved by state legislature.

But according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the bond allows for the creation of joint powers authorities that "may include in their membership governmental and nongovernmental partners that are not located within their respective hydrologic regions in financing the surface storage projects."

Those authorities would "own, govern, manage and operate a surface storage project."

"That's very, very dangerous because that ... opens the door to the privatization of water," said Carolee Krieger, president of the California Water Impact Network, a water consumer advocacy organization.

"If someone is doing this privately they are doing it for their own profit ... and if there is a profit motive there, the price is going to go up for everyone."