SACRAMENTO – With California experiencing its worst water shortage crisis in modern history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to announce legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and provide funding to increase local water supplies.
“This is a call to action. We must all do our part to conserve in this drought,” said Governor Brown. “The state is doing its part by providing immediate funding for drinking water, food, housing and assistance for water-conserving technologies,” said Governor Brown.
The legislation provides $687.4 million to support drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers directly impacted by the drought, bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities.
In addition, the legislation increases funding for state and local conservation corps to assist communities with efficiency upgrades and reduce fire fuels in fire risk areas, and includes $1 million for the Save Our Water public awareness campaign – which will enhance its mission to inform Californians how they can do their part to conserve water.
“Without enough rain and snow this winter, we need to capture as much water as we can through any means possible. Water agencies around the state have projects ready to go to capture and distribute more of the water that’s now lost to evaporation or simply flowing out to the ocean. They simply need money to get those projects done,” said Senate President pro Tem Steinberg. “We don’t have to ignore environmental protections, raise fees or get bogged down in political arguments over projects that will take many years to produce a single drop of water. It’s time to focus on what we can do right now.”
“By making smart use of these funds, we can alleviate and prevent some of the worst impacts of the drought and, at the same time, make badly needed improvements to our water system that will benefit California for years to come,” Speaker Pérez said. “These targeted responses will have tangible results, but the solution requires more than legislation and investment. Every Californian needs to be a part of the solution, and we strongly urge every person in our state to take action to conserve water.”
In addition to the funding provided by the legislation, the bill calls for the California Department of Public Health (DPH) to adopt new groundwater replenishment regulations by July 1, 2014, and for the State Water Resources Control Board and the DPH to work on additional measures to allow for the use of recycled water and storm water capture for increasing water supply availability.
The bill also makes statutory changes to ensure existing water rights laws are followed, including streamlined authority to enforce water rights laws and increased penalties for illegally diverting water during drought conditions. The bill also provides the California Department of Housing and Community Development with the greatest flexibility to maximize migrant housing units.