California lawmakers approved legislation sought by Governor Jerry Brown that authorizes spending $1 billion to manage the drought gripping the most populous U.S. state for a fourth year.
The funds, coming mostly from a bond measure passed in 2006 and another approved by voters in November, would go toward flood protection, water recycling, desalination, emergency food and water supplies and other needs.
The Assembly’s vote marks the second time in as many years that lawmakers approved emergency drought spending. Record low rainfall has left reservoirs less than half full, and warmer temperatures have limited the state’s snowpack to just 9 percent of normal. Farm water-rationing has fallowed much of the nation’s most productive agricultural region. Communities have restricted water, while the cost of water and drilling new wells has skyrocketed.
“It is way past time to move beyond these temporary Band- Aid fixes,” said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen. “Californians are relying on us, both Democrats and Republicans, to get projects moving.”
The legislation spends $660 million from a bond that voters approved nine years ago for flood control and groundwater management. An additional $273 million comes from a $7.5 billion bond Brown championed in November. It will be used for desalination, recycling and safe drinking water projects.
Brown and lawmakers last year passed a similar emergency appropriation of $870 million. So far, the state has spent about half that to help dislocated farmworkers, create temporary drinking water supplies and help cities and counties improve infrastructure.
This month, the California State Water Resources Control Board passed rules that prohibit residents from watering lawns within 48 hours after a rain and limit watering to two days a week. Restaurants and bars can serve water only if asked by a customer. Hotel and motel operators must offer patrons the option of not having towels and linens washed daily. Residents and businesses face fines for failing to follow the rules.
The board last July passed an emergency measure that set fines of as much as $500 a day on residential and business property owners if they water lawns to the point that runoff flows onto streets or sidewalks.