California Senators have unveiled a $3.4 billion drought relief package to address the hardships created by ongoing dry conditions. The Senate Budget Plan on Drought, Safe Drinking Water, Water Supply Reliability, and Ratepayer Assistance would be the single largest investment to address drought challenges in California. During the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy hearing, the proposal was passed by a 4-0 vote. The proposal offers a comprehensive approach to drought relief, with funding designated for water supply projects, research, and water-use efficiency projects.
“This comprehensive Senate drought package will provide crucial relief for ratepayers and make immediate investments to help homeowners, businesses and the agricultural sector use water more efficiently,” Senator Bob Wieckowski said in a press release. “It aids local agencies, promotes water connections to larger systems, boosts water recycling, protects fish and wildlife, uses the latest technology to improve forecasting, and invests in sustainable groundwater management.”
The drought relief package includes $1 billion for recovery efforts related to COVID to assist community water systems, ratepayers, and public utilities. Another $600 million would be used to assist with resilient water infrastructure projects, recycled water, and stormwater management. A total of $500 million would be divided between efficiency efforts for urban and agricultural water use. The proposal includes $500 million for immediate drought relief for California communities. Sustainable groundwater management initiatives would receive $350 million in support.
The proposal would be financed through a variety of funding sources. Federal money from the American Rescue Plan will be combined with funding from the General Fund, as well as an acceleration of General Obligation Bonds. Several water agencies have expressed support for the plan including the East Valley Water District, Westlands Water District, and the Association of California Water Agencies. The drought relief package will now be considered in the Senate Budget Committee.