Feb 19 California lawmakers are set to unveil
legislation on Wednesday to combat a devastating drought, a
month after Governor Jerry Brown declared an emergency and
called on state residents to conserve water.
Officials did not immediately release details of the
legislation, but a draft of a $644 million emergency drought
relief bill, circulated by environmentalists earlier this month,
appeared designed to quickly fund shovel-ready projects.
The wide-ranging effort would fast-track water supply
projects and speed up funding for expanded use of recycled water
and efforts to capture rainwater.
California's Senate Democratic leader, Darrell Steinberg,
and Assembly Speaker John Perez, also a Democrat, will join
Brown in presenting the legislation, according to a statement
from Brown's office. Democrats control a majority in both
chambers of the legislature, making it easier for the Democratic
governor to enact his drought-fighting agenda.
The drought has forced farmers in California, the No. 1 U.S.
farm state, to idle hundreds of thousands of acres, and has led
to complaints in some rural areas that water distribution was
The drought has put 10 communities at acute risk of running
out of drinking water in 60 days, with the small city of Willits
in the northern part of the state facing the most drastic
shortages, public health officials said on Tuesday.
Rural communities where residents rely on wells are at
particular risk because contaminants in groundwater become more
concentrated when less water is available to dilute them,
Last week, President Barack Obama announced nearly $200
million in aid for the parched state, including $60 million for
food banks to help workers in agriculture-related industries who
have lost their jobs.
Brown has called on Californians to reduce their water usage
by 20 percent and state officials have launched a public
awareness campaign, Save Our Water, using radio spots to
Other measures officials have taken include hiring more
firefighters in the face of heightened wildfire risks.