California will receive tens of millions of dollars in new drought aid from the U.S. government that will provide relief for farmers, displaced workers and rural communities that have run out of drinking water, officials said Friday.
Obama administration officials announced a total of about $110 million in new drought assistance for western states, on top of more than $190 million that had already been allocated this year.
Much of the new spending announced Friday will go to California, including $18 million to provide temporary jobs for workers displaced by the drought, said Portia Wu, an assistant Labor secretary.
A UC Davis study recently estimated that the drought will cost the state more than 18,000 jobs.
California also will receive $10 million for rural communities that need emergency water, and $6.5 million for projects to improve water management over the next two years, officials said.
“We’re marshaling every resource we have to provide meaningful relief,” Mike Connor, a deputy Interior secretary, said on a conference call with reporters.
Earlier on Friday, President Obama and senior officials participated in a briefing on drought and wildfire preparedness with Western governors, including California Gov. Jerry Brown. About 35% of the West faces severe to exceptional drought, officials said.
The funding arrives as California struggles through a fourth year of drought. After viewing a historically abysmal snowpack April 1, Brown ordered a mandatory 25% cut in urban water use statewide and issued a slew of other restrictions meant to curb water waste.
In a statement, Brown said, “This aid will provide new opportunities for farmworkers and rural communities most impacted by the drought and make the state more water-efficient and drought resilient.”
Ellen Hanak, a water expert at the Public Policy Institute of California, said she was glad to see money for displaced workers and people facing drinking water shortages.
“They’re the ones with the least ability to go and lobby for themselves,” she said. “Focus on these kinds of impacted communities can be really helpful.”
Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation and former state secretary of natural resources, said he hoped the money would serve as a “harbinger of more things to come.”
“I wish it was a little bit more because I’m very concerned that the drought is not going to be over,” he said. “So I’d like to see a little bit more attention on drought preparedness rather than drought reaction.
“It will rain again,” he added, “and it will be important to capture the next high flows and get them recharged into our groundwater basin.”