| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Feb 4 California's senate leader
is preparing a $644 million emergency drought relief bill
designed to quickly fund shovel-ready projects to combat the
state's severe water shortage, according to a draft of the bill.
The wide-ranging effort would fast-track water supply
projects, speed up funding for expanded use of recycled water
and stormwater capture projects, and better monitor and manage
California is facing its worst drought in decades. State
officials have said it is likely to force for the first time a
complete cutoff this year in state-supplied water sold to 29
irrigation districts, public water agencies and municipalities
up and down the state.
The draft calls for portions of the bill to go into effect
by July 1, a quick timeline that highlights the urgency of the
"Short of making it rain, I think this is the best that the
governor and the legislature can do to get water to people who
need it," said Steven Maviglio, a consultant working with
environmental group NRDC.
Most of the money would come from voter-approved bonds,
although at least $40 million would come from money raised from
the sale of carbon permits as part of the state's cap-and-trade
Environmentalists said spending cap-and-trade revenue to
make the state's water system more energy efficient would be a
wise use of the money since 19 percent of electricity used in
the state goes to heat, pump, move and treat water.
"With the close nexus between water and energy use in
California, this will help create the greenhouse gas reductions
and the broader environmental and economic benefits that we're
looking for," said Erica Morehouse of the Environmental Defense
The three-page draft was circulated by environmentalists on
Tuesday. A spokesman for Senate President pro Tempore Darrell
Steinberg, whose name is on the draft bill and who is leading
the effort, declined to discuss the bill since it is the subject
of ongoing negotiations.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency
last month, a move that allows the parched state to seek federal
aid. A Brown spokesman did not return a request for comment on
the draft bill.
Democrats control a majority in both chambers of the
California state legislature, making it easier for Brown to
enact his agenda.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Peter Henderson and