$687 million proposed to aid drought-stricken California

Federal aid for California drought

President Obama addresses the seriousness of the drought as he speaks to the media with Gov. Jerry Brown (left) and farmers Joe and Maria Del Bosque in Los Banos (Merced County). Photo: Wally Skalij, Associated Press

In response to California’s severe drought conditions, lawmakers have proposed a $687 million emergency drought relief plan to aid drought-stricken areas. The funds would be distributed across multiple sectors, including areas that face acute water supplies and agricultural producers. A large portion of the funds would also go towards water conservation.

California has seen rain in recent days, but it would take months of continuous rainfall to restore water reserves to healthy levels and counteract the lingering drought that brought the driest year in the state’s history in 2013. Commenting on the recent rainfall, Gov. Brown stated that “It’s not going to be enough, but it’s better than not having it at all.” Mandatory rationing of water is a possible conservation measure on the table, but rationing enforcement is currently left up to local communities to enforce.

The $687 million package has cleared the hurdles of the budget committees and should be up for vote within the next week. According to CBS, “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.”

The Central Valley region of California is one of the most productive agricultural zones in the world, but many farmers are now relying on food stamps as they find themselves without work while their fields lie fallow.

The proposal follows $160 million in federal aid that President Obama promised to deliver when visiting the state earlier this month. In addition, a large water infrastructure bond is up for vote this November, which would raise $11 billion dollars to address long-term water solutions. Some lawmakers fear the proposal requires too much money and may not get passed by voters. Efforts to reduce the bond amount in hopes of getting the proposal passed are reported to be underway, but as we have seen in recent months, the focus on drought conditions has never been greater – and the true value of water is virtually impossible to calculate.

Want more details on the severity of California’s drought? Read my previous blog post.

Jordan Schmidt environmental professional

Image credit: SFGate

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