Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Saturday to free up the state's water supplies and aid residents who face hardship because of the drought, according to a release from his office.
More than $687 million will go to drought relief, money that will fund housing and food for workers directly affected by the drought and projects aimed at more efficiently capturing water, the release said.
“Legislators across the aisle have now voted to help hard-pressed communities that face water shortages,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation marks a crucial step – but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water.”
The two bills Brown signed passed with wide margins in the Senate and Assembly.
A total of $ 1 million will go to a public awareness campaign that “will enhance its mission to inform Californians how they can do their part to conserve water,” according to the release.
The legislation is expected to expedite funding for projects to improve conservation, clean up contaminated groundwater and make irrigation more efficient.
The plan also would stiffen penalties for those who illegally divert water.
Recent rain has provided some relief but the state has been enduring dramatically dry conditions. The last calendar year was the driest on record in the state.
The bulk of the package, $549 million, will be funded through borrowing already approved by voters. A total of $40 million will come from fees the state collects on polluters and the rest will come from the the state's general fund.