"This legislation marks a crucial step - but Californians must
continue to take every action possible to conserve water," Brown, a
Democrat, said in a statement.
The largest share of the drought relief package - $549 million -
comes from accelerated spending of bond money voters previously
approved in two ballot propositions.
Those measures will fund storm water recapturing, expanded use of
recycled water, better management of groundwater storage and
stronger water conservation measures.
The legislation also has a program to deal with contaminants that
become more concentrated in groundwater when less water is available
to dilute them.
In addition, the legislation appropriates $25.3 million in food
assistance and $21 million in housing assistance to people affected
by the drought, such as farm workers who have lost employment in
bone-dry agricultural fields.
While much of the United States has been pummeled by a series of
snow storms, California in recent months has struggled with a
drought that threatens to inflict the worst water crisis in recorded
California grows half the nation's fruits and vegetables and is the
top state by value of agricultural goods produced. Large-scale crop
losses in the state could lead to higher consumer prices, especially
for tree and vine produce grown only here.
A large winter storm soaked many parts of the state on Friday and
Saturday, but officials said the precipitation would be too little
to offset the ongoing drought.
"Obviously this rain helps, but we need a lot more to get caught
up," said Carol Smith, meteorologist for the National Weather
Service in Oxnard just northwest of Los Angeles.
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Some coastal and valley regions of Southern California and the
state's Central Coast have received 4 inches of rain, with up to 11
inches in the mountains and foothills, according to the National
In this drought, Los Angeles has received less than 6 inches of rain
since July 1, which is about half the normal amount over that time
period, Smith said.
"Neither the rain storms we're having now, nor this legislation will
eliminate the drought and its impacts," state Senate President pro
Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, said in a statement.
"But just like any amount of rain and snow will help, saving a year
or even a few months in getting money out the door and getting water
projects on-line can benefit California enormously," Steinberg said.
Brown and several top state lawmakers announced the drought-relief
legislation on February 19. The two drought relief bills that make
up the legislative package passed the California state Assembly and
the Senate nearly unanimously.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, additional reporting
by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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