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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Gov. Brown signs emergency drought legislation

Gov. Jerry Brown signed emergency drought legislation on March 1. The bill allocated $687.4 million to aid workers with food and housing that have been directly impacted by the drought and technologies that will assist communities in using less water. Additionally, it will fund security emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities, according to a press release from Gov. Brown’s office.

Many of the proposals included in the package were proposed earlier this year in Gov. Brown’s budget proposal; however, they are now being expedited due to the dire need of California’s water situation.

“These targeted responses will have tangible results, but the solution requires more than legislation and investment. Every Californian needs to be a part of the solution, and we strongly urge every person in our state to take action to conserve water,” California State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez said.

One piece of the bill that California State Representative John Garamendi highlighted as particularly important was the funding for farmers in the Sacramento region to update their irrigation systems so that they can be more conservative about their water use.

“Conservation is everybody’s responsibility, for homeowners it is about saving water wherever you can,” Garamendi said.

According to Brad Alexander, chief of media relations at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, this legislation is going to have far-reaching positive consequences all over the state, specifically food, water and housing relief for farm workers during these lean times when water demanding crops aren’t coming in.

The bill provides $46.3 million in funding for workers and their families who have been severely impacted by this drought.

“The emergency situation called for an emergency piece of legislation to address it,” Alexander said.

However, according to Alexander, just because this piece of legislation has passed doesn’t mean that there isn’t more work to be done. Because California is technically still in its wet season many of the negative consequences of the drought haven’t come to fruition yet. More specifically, all the needs of workers need to be assessed as do the statues of drinking water programs around the state and the condition of the water storage systems.

“The losses due to the drought will be in the billions of dollars and so while relief is welcome, it cannot begin to cover the serious impacts,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, in an email.

According to Sumner, the people that will feel the worst effects of this drought are Central Valley workers. These workers are in an area with some of the lowest wages and one of the highest rates of unemployment.

“The more we can do to keep whatever water we have flowing is crucial for employment,” Sumner said.

Although the bill provides aid in the form of state funding, it also calls upon Californians to do what they can to save water.

According to Alexander, people can save gallons of water by taking shorter showers, only running dishwashers and washing machines when on a full load and sticking to the good old ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.’

Although there is more to be done as California enters the end of its wet season, Alexander said that this legislation will make significant changes to aid those bearing the brunt of this drought.

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