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Brown to propose $680M for Calif. drought relief

Posted: February 19, 2014 12:15 p.m.
Updated: February 19, 2014 12:15 p.m.
 

SACRAMENTO (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.

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