Shasta Lake

California lakes have fallen to historically low levels in some cases as the state moves into its fourth year of drought.

California Governor signs emergency drought bills

California is in fourth year of drought Second consecutive year of zero water allocations to farmers  

Moving swiftly to help communities cope with California’s devastating drought and the ongoing effects of climate change; Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. on March 27 signed emergency legislation to fast-track more than $1 billion in funding for drought relief and critical water infrastructure projects.

“This funding is just one piece of a much larger effort to help those most impacted by the drought and prepare the state for an uncertain future,” said Brown.

Brown joined Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Republican Leaders Assembly member Kristin Olsen and Senator Bob Huff last week to announce agreement on the $1 billion legislation, which accelerates emergency food aid, drinking water, water recycling, conservation awareness, water system modeling, species tracking, infrastructure and flood protection funding.

For full text of the bills, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/

The latest action builds on efforts from the State Water Resources Control Board over the past year to prohibit wasteful water use and encourage Californians to conserve. These emergency regulations – the most stringent statewide measures in California’s history – include strict limits on outdoor irrigation (two days a week in much of California); bans on hosing down outdoor surfaces, decorative water fountains that don’t recirculate water and car washing without an automatic shut-off nozzle.

The Governor’s action also requires that bars and restaurants only serve water upon request and hotels ask guests staying multiple nights whether linens and towels need to be washed.

The Governor also took critical steps to prepare the state for prolonged droughts, leading the campaign to pass Proposition 1, California’s $7.5 billion water bond, which won bipartisan approval in the Legislature and was approved overwhelmingly at the polls.

The funds represent the most significant statewide investment in water supply infrastructure projects in decades – a package that includes surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection.

Additionally, for the first time in California’s history, Governor Brown signed legislation creating a framework for local, sustainable management of groundwater, which accounts for about one-third of California’s water supply.

California farmers were particularly hard-hit as state and federal water regulators in the last two years cut water allocations to historically low levels from the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

This will be the second consecutive year of zero water deliveries to federal water users in California. Allocations have not yet been determined for those on the State Water Project as water managers determine how much water could be available for various uses.

As growers grapple with historically dry conditions, the California Department of Food and Agriculture provided $10 million in grants to help implement more than 150 water conservation projects that will help save hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water statewide. An additional $10 million is expedited in this legislation to continue this program.

In addition to the emergency funding, the state committed more than $870 million in drought relief since last year to assist drought-affected communities and provide funding to better use local water supplies.

Last month, Governor Brown met with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Sacramento to announce nearly $20 million in federal drought relief for California’s Central Valley Project.

In Dec. 2013, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to quickly respond to the emerging drought impacts throughout the state. The following month, the Governor declared a drought state of emergency and the administration finalized a comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the course for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods moving forward.

Later in 2014 the Governor issued executive orders to further strengthen the state’s ability to manage water and habitat effectively in drought conditions and streamline efforts to provide water to families in dire need.

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