Senate Passes California Drought Relief Bill
May 23, 2014

The U.S. Senate this week passed by unanimous consent a bill designed to help California and other western states through one of the region's worst droughts on record.

The Emergency Drought Relief Act would give federal and state water agencies additional flexibility to deliver water where it is most needed. The legislation was sponsored by the senators from California and Nevada, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid and Dean Heller.

The next step is working with the U.S. House of Representatives, which also passed a measure that loosens some regulations to deal with the water shortage.

Feinstein said the bill aims to cut red tape and increase flexibility for federal agencies, while leaving federal laws and regulations untouched, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

The California Farm Water Coalition estimates that the drought will result in 800,000 acres of farmland being fallowed this year, removing them from production. The coalition says the state's economy could lose as much as $7.5 billion and 15,000 jobs.

A recent report from the University of California, Davis, estimates the Central Valley's agriculture industry will lose $1.7 billion in economic activity and will see a 32 percent (6.5 million acre foot) reduction in surface water supplies as a direct result of the drought.

Reprinted in part from Agri-Pulse