Though California is technically in its fourth year of drought, on Jan. 17, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought a State of Emergency directing state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for shortages, encouraging residents to reduce water usage by 20 percent.
"This unprecedented drought continues with no signs yet of letting up," said Brown. "The programs funded by the actions announced today will provide direct relief to workers and communities most impacted by these historic dry conditions."
Brown, along with Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen joined to announce legislation to help cope with the drought.
“This emergency drought relief is an important band aid," said Assemblymember Kristin Olsen. “We must move beyond temporary fixes. Projects to increase water supply have been hung up in government red tape for decades. I'm glad today we are making decisions that help people and look to us all to take real actions on long-term projects so emergency actions are no longer needed.”
According to the Governor’s office, the local relief package estimated at more than $1 billion will expedite bond funding, provide for water and weather infrastructure projects, increase resilience to climate change effects, and help ensure access to local water supplies; $128 million in expenditures from the Governor's budget has been allotted for direct assistance to those in impacted communities and implementation of the Water Action Plan.
The plan includes $272 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling, propelling $660 million from the Proposition 1E for flood protection in urban and rural areas.
“This legislation will deliver relief to Californians harmed by the drought and help us manage the significant problems the drought continues to cause,”
said Speaker Atkins.
Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff said that storage is essential for providing a reliable water source and called the Prop 1 water bond passed in 2014 a critical step forward in meeting California's future needs.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at near record lows with the March snowpack measurement estimated at 0.9 inches of water content in the snow, 5 percent of the March 3rd historical average. The Northern Sierra snowpack came in at 4.4 inches, just 16 percent of average for the date; Central and southern Sierra readings were 5.5 inches, 20 percent of average, and 5 inches, or 22 percent respectively.
The State Water Resources Control Board recently voted to expand and extend an emergency regulation to prohibit certain actions, like washing sidewalks, and creating a minimum standard for outdoor irrigation restrictions by urban water suppliers.
Over $870 million has been pledged since February 2014 to aid drought relief, including money for food to directly impacted workers, funding for emergency drinking water supplies for drought impacted communities and bond funds for projects to help local communities save water and create drought resilient systems. In February, Brown met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in Sacramento announcing a near-$20 million in federal drought relief for California's Central Valley Project.
Last fall, Brown signed legislation requiring local, sustainable groundwater management; approved the highly favored water bond; and issued an Executive Order streamlining efforts to provide water as the drought continues via the California Disaster Assistance Act for water for drinking and sanitation to households currently without running water.