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Some anti-drought programs face cuts

A woman fills nher bottle with spring water flowing over rocks. (Photo: Wollertz, via Shutterstock)

For the past 5 years, parched Californians suffered through the state’s worst drought. Wildfires, reduced crop production, environmental damage, cities running dry – all were part of the misery.

But with the drought now broken by an unprecedented wet season and snow pack, it’s possible to look back and see the positives develop, especially when it comes to the state budget.

Brown’s original budget, proposed in January and drawn up during the tail end of the drought, allocated $178.7 million for drought-response activities.

Many homeowners dealt with the stress of monitoring water usage in their homes to avoid fines and penalties, with the result that water was conserved. Water limits were set up by the state to monitor and restrict the amount of water a household uses, so people became aware of the penalties for taking too-long showers, leaving lawn faucets running, washing the car and hosing down the driveway.

It worked, mostly.

“Californians stepped up during this drought and saved more water than ever before,” Gov. Jerry Brown said last year in a prepared statement. “But now we know that drought is becoming a regular occurrence and water conservation must be a part of our everyday life.”

It’s also part of the 2017-18 state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Brown’s original budget, proposed in January and drawn up during the tail end of the drought, allocated $178.7 million for drought-response activities.

This year, the revised draft of the budget – which was revised in May to reflect the latest income tax revenues from the April 15 tax filing deadline — cut the money targeting the drought by nearly two-thirds, bringing the new total to $62.9 million.

In that moment, it seemed as if the people of California breathed a collective sigh of relief.

With a cut as drastic as that, Californians may expect to see much of that money being relocated for use for other issues important to the state and its residents.

Final deliberations on the budget are under way, with the potential of more cuts to drought-related projects. Again, that may leave funds for more money for non-drought related programs. Thursday is the constitutional deadline to send the budget to the governor’s desk. The new fiscal year begins July 1

For example, money being allocated to the Department of Water Resources’ Save Our Water Campaign was cut from $2 million to $1 million in the May version of the budget and now the funding for the project may be eliminated from the budget completely.

On April 7, Brown announced that the historic drought was officially over. In that moment, it seemed as if the people of California breathed a collective sigh of relief.

So, the drought is history. But what can Californians expect to see different?

Not much.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said.

Ed’s Note: Jessica Duncan is a Capitol Weekly intern from the University of Alabama.

 


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