California Democrats Propose $3.41 Billion Drought Spending Plan

Senate Democrats proposed a $3.41 billion spending plan on Thursday to fight the growing drought crisis in the state.

The drought, caused by lower precipitation this year, the mountain snowpack half what it usually is, high demand for water, and the state wasting many water resources, has spurred Governor Gavin Newsom to issue emergency drought declarations and has led to increased worry from urban residents, farmers, and environmentalists alike.

However, due to budget precautionary measures made in response to the COVID-19 crisis, California has brought in $16.7 billion more than expected so far this year. Combined with the $26 billion sent by the federal government, lawmakers decided that some of the money should be spent on the drought emergency.

“We live in an unprecedented time and I think we shouldn’t have unprecedented patience,” explained Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on Thursday. “That’s very clearly happening throughout communities in California because we understand what’s at stake. We really have an opportunity now and we should take advantage of it.”

According to the proposal, the largest portion of the spending, around $1 billion, would go towards paying off the COVID-19 recession-caused accumulated debt of unpaid water bills in California. Around $500 million would go into trucking emergency water supplies and the building up of the water system to help connect different water systems to avoid droughts happening in different areas. Communities could get grants for as much as $5 million under the plan if they were tied to water reliability, water quality, and increasing water supplies.  Another $500 billion would go toward grants for homeowners and cities to replace grass lawns and medians with natural landscapes that don’t use as much water, as well as farm irrigation upgrades.

$600 million would go to ancillary water efforts, with $400 million of that to be spent on recycled water projects and stormwater management, with the rest going towards increasing the water supply through efforts such as groundwater recharge projects and ground water banking improvements. Fish and wildlife protection would get $285 million under the proposal, with much going into state water buyback programs to replenish the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys to save fish in those areas. Other funds would go to salmon monitoring programs.

Additionally, $350 million would go towards starting up Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) endeavors that would reduce groundwater pumping while also removing up to 1 million acres of farmland from being used because of the restrictions, with $75 million into technological water sensing improvements for better water and drought predictions in the future.

A $3.41 billion proposal

The $3.41 billion proposal would be funded from several different sources. $1 billion would come from federal COVID-19 relief funding, $145 million would come from reallocated California Water Commission funds that were intended for dam upkeep, and the rest coming from state tax dollars.

Governor Newsom and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) both indicated willingness to work with the Senate on their proposal through their own spending proposals that will be revealed in the next few weeks.

And, despite being received well by different organizations, such as the California Farm Bureau, many others have blasted the plan for putting much of the burden and sacrifice on the backs of farmers.

“We’ve been begging for more water for years,” explained Central Valley farmer Roscoe Flanagan to the Globe on Thursday. “They want to limit groundwater usage while also diverting even more water back into rivers. While  the irrigation improvement are a good step forward, the rest of this not only puts us two steps back, but it knocks us on our feet.”

“We need water, pure and simple. While money is nice to have, water is key here not only for our survival but for agriculture to survive as a whole.”

“A lot of this state’s fresh water is wasted. This bill doesn’t change that fact. Not the way I see it.”

The Senate drought proposal will likely be negotiated on in the coming weeks following the release of Governor Newsom’s budget proposal for next year.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. 

This article was originally published by the California Globe.


  1. The fact that no new water storage (man made lakes) are even being considered shows the power of the environmentalists and the weak will of the legislature. How much water does it take for a sanctuary state to just take care of a million illegals every year? That would be an interesting number.

  2. Dams?
    There you have “recycled” water to use and hydroelectric power also.
    Stupid? Epidemic in our government and leadership!
    Three dams will solve California’s water issues and electrical brown/black outs, that we live with now.
    But, all the incompetents want us to pee in the morning then chill it down and drink it in the afternoon!
    Yep, recycled water – they will waste ever dime they get their hands on.
    They have proved and demonstrated that in every project (high speed rail to NO WHERE!).
    Remember voters, Democrats and those on the Left will lie to get what they want.
    It is not a matter if it is right or wrong, they only care if it will work and their only aim is to gain more political power and greater personal wealth.

  3. During the height of the last drought I drove thru Sacramento and the river was full to the top of the banks and the water was all running out to the ocean. If they opened the valves and turned on the pumps the farmers and southern calif could have all the water they wanted. The reason they don’t is a silly little bait fish called the delta smelt. They get sucked into the pumps and die. The easiest way to solve this would be to catch the damn fish and breed it in fish farms. Then every couple of years they could drop a couple of thousand of the things in the delta and not have to worry about the things. The water would not be wasted, the farmers would have all they need and southern cal would also have plenty of water. They also need more dams these give us water storage plus hydro electric power which is the cleanest power there is. All these things would take care of the problems and all of them are not allowed by environmentalists. My favorite bumper sticker from the 60s was “May all you environmentalists sons of bitches freeze to death in the dark” It still stands today

    • RenaFreed says

      Why is this not happening? Why is water wasted and going out to the ocean? What insanity is there in our politicians…??

  4. Richard Cathcart says

    Many farmers realize, but cannot yet effectively oppose, that Sacramento and Big City Democrat politicians desire to exterminate farming in California. Corporate and Income taxation would give them the endless oodles of dough they require to stay in power perpetually. There is NO drought, but there is a dearth of easily available $$ to Democrat politician’s for their buy-offs, pay-outs and under-the-table briberies.

  5. Follow the money into politicians pockets?

  6. The voters passed nine ballot measures regarding water in recent cycles. If the money raised thru bond sales were used for advertised water purposes, there wouldn’t be a water problem. Eco-nazis and democrats lie. This idea is no exception.

  7. Chris Renner says

    It doesn’t matter how many trees you can grow; it only matters that the Federal money tree keeps sending our great great great great grandkids dollars to California so it can waste it!

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