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Governor plans $687 million for California drought

California Drought-Obama

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Jerry Brown and the top Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday announced a $687 million plan to provide immediate help to drought-stricken communities throughout California, including $15 million for those with dangerously low drinking water supplies.

The proposal comes amid one of the driest periods in the history of the nation's most populous state, forcing farmers to fallow fields and some communities to warn of low water supplies.

"There's many ways we can better use the water we have," Brown said during a news conference at a state office near Sacramento. "You can't manufacture water."

The Democratic plan, which now goes to the Legislature, does not address long-term improvements to California's water supply and distribution system. Rather, it provides money for immediate aid.

Most of the money - $549 million - will come in the form of accelerated spending from two bonds approved previously by voters. It will go toward local water conservation and recycling efforts, such as systems to capture stormwater and recharge groundwater supplies.

The general fund, the state's main checkbook, also will be tapped. In addition to the money for emergency water supplies, $25.3 million from the general fund will provide food assistance in communities affected by the drought.

That would include areas of the Central Valley, among the nation's most productive farming regions, that are suffering from high unemployment as agriculture-related jobs disappear.

The proposal also directs the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Public Health to boost water supplies by allowing for the use of recycled water and stormwater. Increased penalties for illegally diverting water also are part of the proposal.

Republican lawmakers, who were not included in the plan, said more must be done to address the state's long-term water needs. They and many farmers have been advocating for more reservoirs to store water.

"While short-term help is needed, Sacramento must also focus on a long-term water solution," two Republicans, Frank Bigelow and Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, said in a statement.

They said Republicans would propose legislation on Thursday to "secure California's water future."

Asked about whether he believes California needs more water storage, Brown told reporters that for now he wants to focus on immediate needs.

"That's important, but of course storage takes a long time."

The state legislative proposal comes as Republicans and Democrats offer different solutions in Congress to deal with California's drought. The House approved a Republican-backed bill that would temporarily halt the restoration of a dried-up stretch of the San Joaquin River so more water could be diverted to farms.

California's two U.S. senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have introduced legislation similar to the proposal announced Wednesday by the governor. That bill would put $300 million toward emergency aid, drought-relief projects and water conservation.

"While Congress is locking their ideological horns over the best way to help, so far nothing to show for it in the process," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who joined the governor at the news conference along with Assembly Speaker John Perez.

Both expected the plan to pass the Legislature and be sent to the governor in a matter of weeks.

Most parts of California are under extreme drought conditions after three winters with below-normal rain and snowfall. As many as 17 communities are at risk of running out of drinking water in the months ahead, and farmers throughout the state have been fallowing fields and tearing up orchards.

The State Water Project, which supplies water to 25 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of farmland, will deliver no additional water later this year to its customers, the first time in its 54-year history that it has given a so-called zero allocation. That could change if precipitation picks up in the weeks ahead.

Beyond Wednesday's announcement, lawmakers still need to negotiate changes to an $11.1 billion water bond that is on the November ballot, a measure that is supposed to provide the longer-term fixes sought by farmers and cities.

Join the discussion

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adika3z February 19 2014 at 8:24 PM

president obama and jerry brown,
use few waterpipes from north america to here in los angeles,
or use snow to water company then snow melt it and bring water to los angeles,
or ocean water to the water filter center and clean water to los angeles,
that is a good sense,

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1 reply
rothhammer1 adika3z February 20 2014 at 1:15 AM

What do you think was done in 1914?

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BULLMAN February 20 2014 at 2:29 AM

Calif has been using and reusing their water for 50 years

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BULLMAN February 20 2014 at 2:21 AM

What can really be done if there is no water for ALL?

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Miss Sonja February 19 2014 at 10:04 PM

OK.. Step one: Let's begin by stopping the water to golf greens and pipe it all to farmers instead. Will reveal step two when step one is completed..

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2 replies
Diana Polsky Miss Sonja February 19 2014 at 11:07 PM

I think many golf courses in California are watered by recycledc cleaned wast water. Most have signs not to drink the water.

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1 reply
whdlsn Diana Polsky February 19 2014 at 11:59 PM

and don't put your golf tees in your mouth.

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rothhammer1 Miss Sonja February 20 2014 at 1:13 AM

Are you going to pay to "pipe it all to farmers instead?"

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andersonda54 February 20 2014 at 12:13 AM

come on ya spent all that money on the haarp project now use it

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Kathae February 20 2014 at 3:14 AM

Idiot, why doesn't he just let them have the water!

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1 reply
Michele Kathae February 20 2014 at 3:28 AM

$$$$ Its all a power play.

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Douglas February 20 2014 at 2:43 AM

Several states will this year be very short on water, i.e. Utah received almost no snowpack this year.

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toothii February 19 2014 at 8:50 PM

What type of person goes and gives a speech on the terrible drought in California and then immdediately goes to play golf at a nearby golf course: plush, green, dotted with small lakes, ponds and streams? A golf course that uses millions of water a week with not even a modicum of water saving all for the purpose of supporting a game. The "do as I say not as I do" president is a hypocrit from the very start. Truly he has to see the hypocracy and that means he doesn't give a damn!

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fbq181 February 20 2014 at 2:15 AM

California, drain your swimming pools!

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1 reply
BULLMAN fbq181 February 20 2014 at 2:22 AM

Do you really think the money people are going to drain their pools?

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1 reply
HI BEAUTIFUL BULLMAN February 20 2014 at 3:21 AM

The swimming pools are not the problem. Let the golf courses go dry, those places suck up more water next to the farmers which grow our food. I would rather have food than golf courses which are mostly for the rich. Make them out of fake grass and that alone would save billions and billions of gallons. Next have odd and even days of watering and no more than twice a week for private homes and only a small area of lawn. Drip irrigation instead of powerful water wasteing sprinklers which overwater. All fountains would have to have recycled water with a pump and not fresh running water. These for starters.

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SRJimVal2 February 19 2014 at 11:56 PM

Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach him how to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime,"

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1 reply
William SRJimVal2 February 20 2014 at 12:08 AM

Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he'll stop and get a 6 pack before blowing his salary on a boat.

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1 reply
rothhammer1 William February 20 2014 at 12:56 AM

Excellent!

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