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Santa Monica’s State Assembly Representative Leads Fight for Drought Relief

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By Daniel Larios
Special to the Lookout

February 27, 2014 -- Santa Monica's representative in the State Assembly is leading the fight for drought relief in California.

The Assembly's Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation, chaired by State Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), voted 3-to-2 Wednesday to approve a $687.4 million emergency drought relief plan to address the State's increasingly dire water problem.

“California is experiencing one of the worst droughts since we began keeping records more than 150 years ago. We must prepare as if these conditions will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Bloom.

“Given the gravity of the situation, there is no more important action by the Legislature than accelerating these funds for projects and actions that will immediately address water supply, water storage, and water quality.”

The proposed legislation includes infrastructure investments to improve the state's water supply, funding for clean drinking water for low income communities, funding for efficiency programs for urban and agricultural communities, and management of sustainable groundwater, officials from Bloom’s office said.

Funds will also be used for a number of other broad initiatives, from food assistance to housing to conservation programs, all designed to alleviate the burden of those affected by the drought.

The proposed plan would supplement the $183 million from existing federal funds for drought relief programs pledged by President Barack Obama two weeks ago.

Both the State Senate and the Assembly are expected to approve the plan, which has been inserted into Assembly Bills 79 and 80, on Thursday.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency last month due to what many are calling the worst drought in California's modern history.

According to weather data, Los Angeles has received just 1.2 inches of rain since July 1, 2013. That’s 10 percent of the normal rainfall levels, according to officials.

During the same period, San Francisco received only 5.85 inches of rain, which is 35 percent of normal levels, officials said.

Even with recent snowfalls, the amount of snow in California’s Sierra Madre mountain range is less than a quarter of normal levels, according to officials.

“The situation is so dire that some rural communities may run out of water supplies in the next 60 to 120 days,” officials said.

Said Bloom, “Absent significant rainfall and snowfall over the next few months, we all will have to make significant immediate lifestyle changes and ultimately cultural changes to ensure that there is sufficient water for farms, fish, wildlife, and communities.

“For those of us in more urban areas, this means local governments may ban landscape or lawn watering, impose mandatory water rationing, prohibit washing cars, or increase water rates,” he said.

Bloom’s hometown has already begun urging its residents to cut back on excessive use of water, warning them that wasting water could come with consequences. (“Santa Monica to Crack Down on Water Waste,” January 14)

California’s $45 billion agricultural industry is also experiencing its share of troubles.

There are currently 500,000 acres of unused farmland. That number could double by next year if conditions don’t improve, according to officials.

That could mean higher food prices, job losses in all sectors of the agricultural industry and an increased demand for social services, officials said.

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