(Adds detail on drought spending, some rainfall totals)
LOS ANGELES, March 1 California Governor Jerry
Brown on Saturday signed into law a $687 million drought-relief
package to deal with a water shortage he has called the worst in
the state's modern history.
"This legislation marks a crucial step - but Californians
must continue to take every action possible to conserve water,"
Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The largest share of the drought relief package - $549
million - comes from accelerated spending of bond money voters
previously approved in two ballot propositions.
Those measures will fund storm water recapturing, expanded
use of recycled water, better management of groundwater storage
and stronger water conservation measures.
The legislation also has a program to deal with contaminants
that become more concentrated in groundwater when less water is
available to dilute them.
In addition, the legislation appropriates $25.3 million in
food assistance and $21 million in housing assistance to people
affected by the drought, such as farm workers who have lost
employment in bone-dry agricultural fields.
While much of the United States has been pummeled by a
series of snow storms, California in recent months has struggled
with a drought that threatens to inflict the worst water crisis
in recorded state history.
California grows half the nation's fruits and vegetables and
is the top state by value of agricultural goods produced.
Large-scale crop losses in the state could lead to higher
consumer prices, especially for tree and vine produce grown only
A large winter storm soaked many parts of the state on
Friday and Saturday, but officials said the precipitation would
be too little to offset the ongoing drought.
"Obviously this rain helps, but we need a lot more to get
caught up," said Carol Smith, meteorologist for the National
Weather Service in Oxnard just northwest of Los Angeles.
Some coastal and valley regions of Southern California and
the state's Central Coast have received 4 inches (10 cm) of
rain, with up to 11 inches (28 cm) in the mountains and
foothills, according to the National Weather Service.
In this drought, Los Angeles has received less than 6 inches
(15 cm) of rain since July 1, which is about half the normal
amount over that time period, Smith said.
"Neither the rain storms we're having now, nor this
legislation will eliminate the drought and its impacts," state
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, said in
"But just like any amount of rain and snow will help, saving
a year or even a few months in getting money out the door and
getting water projects on-line can benefit California
enormously," Steinberg said.
Brown and several top state lawmakers announced the
drought-relief legislation on Feb. 19. The two drought relief
bills that make up the legislative package passed the California
state Assembly and the Senate nearly unanimously.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, additional
reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by