Emergency Funding for California Drought

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – California communities scrambling for safe drinking water could get a share of $19 million in emergency funding under guidelines approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board.
     “As we enter a fourth year of severe drought, more communities are likely to face difficulties with their water supplies and delivering safe drinking water,” said Darrin Polhemus, deputy director of the State Water Board’s Division of Financial Assistance.
     The funding will come from the $1 billion emergency drought package Gov. Jerry Brown signed on March 27.
     The water board is appropriating $15 million from the State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account to address drought-related drinking water emergencies or threatened emergencies.
     Another $4 million from the Abatement Account will provide interim emergency drinking water to disadvantaged communities with contaminated supplies.
     The drought could exacerbate contamination of drinking water, leaving communities without access to safe water supplies, the water board said.
     The funding can be used for things such as bottled water, treatment systems, well repair and replacement, and hauling water.
     Public agencies, community water systems, nonprofit organizations and tribal governments are all eligible to receive funds. Depending on the need, funding could be expedited to some communities.
     The water board will coordinate with Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Division of Drinking Water, the Department of Water Resources and the Office of Emergency Services to identify communities whose water supplies have been affected by contamination or drought and need financial assistance.
     “These guidelines will help streamline the process of identifying communities with the most immediate need and who don’t have the necessary resources to respond to their situation, and in getting funds as quickly as possible to them to secure their drinking water supplies,” Polhemus said.
     The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday said it will provide $21 million to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to deal with short- and long-term effects of the drought.
     The funding, made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, will be distributed to the most severely drought-stricken areas of eight states, including California.
     The money will help crop and livestock producers apply conservation practices that increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations.
     “Every day, Natural Resources Conservation Service conservationists work side by side with agricultural producers and help them conserve water and increase resilience in their operations,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
     The latest investment “will provide additional resources in drought-stricken areas to help farmers and ranchers implement solutions to mitigate the impacts of sustained drought,” he said.

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