The American West is in the grip of an unprecedented drought for the last three years. To alleviate the suffering, the Federal Government has pledged to invest $50 million in the form of relief projects across the region. This was announced by the U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Friday.
The brunt of the Drought is faced by California which can be designated as Ground Zero. A federal water project that supplies many of the Central Valley’s farms will get almost 40 percent of the money. The rest of the funds will be used to finance a water conservation grant program. It will also help states prepare for the next iteration of bone-dry weather.
Extra funding includes $20 million for the Central Valley Water Project which envisages efforts such as water transfers, drought monitoring for endangered species and diversifying water supplies. Farmers and local water departments will be provided another $14 million for measures to reduce water use and also to develop response plans to face drought conditions.
The latest funding announcement came with the first major storm of 2015 round the corner and moving into the Northern California along with prospects of up to 10 inches of rain in places. It was a welcome sight after an exceptionally dry January.
The State Water Resources Control Board has asked Californians to reduce monthly water use by 22% in December and so also meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s call to cut residential water use by 20% for the first time. The Board may have plans to further limit outdoor water use as it tries to protect the supplies.
Gov. Jerry Brown said, “I’m reluctant to expand the coercive power of state authority. In a democracy, it is fundamental that citizens be the driving force. It’s my job to encourage and inspire and monitor, but before we have, you know, full-scale rationing we have to have a few more problems than we currently have.”
Brown has also proposed spending $115 million for emergency drinking water and firefighting this year as part of his budget.