On Wednesday, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, along with California Rep. Jared Huffman and more than 20 other original co-sponsors from California, introduced a comprehensive bill that would provide emergency funding to help local communities stretch existing water supplies and improve water infrastructure in response to the California drought.

The Drought Relief and Resilience Act fully funds existing programs so that treatment facilities can be quickly upgraded, leaking pipes can be repaired, and urban and agricultural water use efficiency can be improved to make California more drought resilient.

The legislation makes major federal investments to improve desalination technology and dramatically expand water recycling, and will help recharge depleted groundwater aquifers and clean up those that have been contaminated by pollutants. It will also help out-of-work farmworkers as well as combat upstream water theft on federal lands.

“This current drought crisis is the worst on record and the most urgent problem our state faces, which is why we need to help California communities do what they can to use water more efficiently,” Capps said. “This bill will provide a diverse number of ways to not only deal with the immediate crisis, but also to prepare for long-term drought resiliency as well.”

“This bill is a welcomed addition to the tools available to water managers. It addresses a wide range of critical issues including water use efficiency, storage, quality, infrastructure and funding,” said Matt Naftaly, manager of the Santa Barbara County Water Agency. “Since the current drought impacts the entire western United States, a bill providing diverse, large scale, and regional solutions is in order.”

— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.