LOS ANGELES – California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $687 million drought-relief package to help communities deal with the state’s driest period in recorded history and provide funding to improve water usage.

“Legislators across the aisle have now voted to help hard-pressed communities that face water shortages,” Brown said in a statement after signing the legislation on Saturday. “This legislation marks a crucial step – but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water.”

The legislation had broad, bipartisan support, with Senate Bill 103 passing 34-2 in the Senate and 64-3 in the Assembly. SB 104 passed 33-3 in the Senate and 68-1 in the Assembly.

The bills provide $687.4 million in funding to support drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers directly impacted by the drought and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for communities.

The largest portion of the package — $549 million — will come from the accelerated expenditure of voter-approved bonds, Proposition 84 and Proposition 1E. Those funds will go toward infrastructure grants for local and regional projects that are already planned or partially completed to help communities more efficiently capture and manage water. Projects include recapturing storm water, expanding the use and distribution of recycled water, enhancing the management and recharging of groundwater storage, and strengthening water conservation.

Voters approved Proposition 84 in 2006, authorizing $5.388 billion in GO bonds to fund safe drinking water, water quality and supply, flood control, and other water-related efforts.

Proposition 1E, also approved in 2006, authorizes $4.09 billion in GO bonds to rebuild and repair California’s most vulnerable flood control structures, and to protect the state’s drinking water supply system.

Some of these bonds have already been issued and can provide immediate cash, while the rest will be issued as the projects need cash, according to H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance.

Other funds would be transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund to the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Food and Agriculture for water-related projects.

The legislation also includes $46.3 million from the General Fund for food and housing assistance for those affected by the drought.

Several of the proposals included in the package were proposed in Brown’s January budget, but will now be expedited.

“Neither the rain storms we’re having now, nor this legislation will eliminate the drought and its impacts,” Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said on Saturday. “But just like any amount of rain and snow will help, saving a year or even a few months in getting money out the door and getting water projects on-line can benefit California enormously.”

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