Governor Brown Signs Emergency Drought Legislation Into Law

Water Law  

March 2014

On Saturday, March 1st, 2014, Governor Brown signed a $687 million drought relief package into law.  The legislation exclusively concerns state-level agency actions and related funding, and consists of two sets of bills: SB 103/AB 79, which amend the 2013-14 Budget Act; and SB 104/AB 80, which are identical budget trailer (implementation) bills.  Major funding components in the drought package include the following:

  • Accelerating appropriation of $472.5 million in Proposition 84 funds to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for water infrastructure grants under the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) program.  $200 million of these funds must be expended toward drought preparedness or response projects.  $21.8 million may be used for projects proposed prior to the enactment of this drought legislation.
  • $77 million in Proposition 84 funds, 1E funds and reimbursements to DWR for flood projects that also have water supply, storage, water quality or ecosystem benefits.
  • $30 million to DWR for local water/energy efficiency programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  $20 million of these funds is for local assistance and the remaining $10 million is to be used for state efficiency projects.
  • $15 million to the Department of Public Health for emergency drinking water assistance in drought-impacted areas.
  • $13 million to the California Conservation Corps for water conservation and drought response projects, water efficiency education and outreach, and local grants to community conservation corps.
  • A combined $11 million for the SWRCB to secure safe drinking water supplies for communities with contaminated drinking water, through grants and direct expenditures.

The drought package also enhances certain agencies’ authority to respond to drought conditions.  For example, SB 104/AB 80 amends the Water Code to “streamline” the SWRCB’s enforcement authority and substantially increase the penalties for illegal diversions during drought periods.  The bill also expands the SWRCB’s authority to issue emergency regulations this year that require reporting by diverters and curtailment of water diversions.  (Under preexisting law, this authority only existed in a critically dry year following two dry years.)  The bill also directs the Department of Public Health to adopt revised emergency groundwater replenishment regulations for recycled water.

We will be carefully watching and reporting on steps DWR and other agencies may take, if any, to expedite the funding of projects authorized by this new drought legislation, and how these significant fiscal measures might “trickle down” to meet local needs.  On the enforcement side, we will be keeping a close eye on any new or modified reporting and curtailment measures, including new regulations, and providing further alerts.