SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — State lawmakers are taking a closer look at how California’s current drought can affect residents.
“Droughts have far-reaching impacts, including the wellbeing of communities large and small,” said State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger.
The Senate Select Committee on Human Security held a hearing on how drinking water is being affected, along with labor, health, and prices and supply at grocery stores.
State water officials told lawmakers on Thursday that a majority of the state’s reservoirs are still well below average, despite recent storms.
“But we should be mindful that these storms are by no means a drought buster,” said Cindy Messer, with the Department of Water Resources.
Agriculture has been feeling the effects of California’s second straight year of drought. California provides two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts and a third of its vegetables.
Officials are bracing for prices to rise, while experts note the drought could contribute to food insecurity — in turn leading to health issues.
Experts said short-term solutions could include food and cash aid programs. Longer solutions would include big infrastructures changes.
“The one thing that’s pretty clear, the people that are hardest hit are most vulnerable, the people that are already in deficit,” said Leslie Lipper, with Food and Agriculture Organization.
As the state explores increasing water storage, officials said Thursday the estimated cost of eight proposed projects totals about $14 billion. Sen. Melissa Mendez, R-Lake Elsinore, noted the state’s projected budget surplus could help.
“If we would invest the money, particularly in years like this year and last year where we had a budget surplus,” Melendez said. “And if we could perhaps invest that money in some of this infrastructure so that we would have it in place because as we know, the longer you wait the more expensive it becomes to do projects like this.”
Lawmakers will begin filing formal proposals in response to the drought at the beginning of the legislative session starting in January.