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California Towns With Highest Job Losses From Drought To Receive Food, Water & Other Aid

With California experiencing its driest year ever on record, so far, the state is now in emergency mode, and trying to get out as many relief services as possible to the public as quickly as it can.

Among these services will be food assistance for families that have been directly affected by the drought through unemployment from agriculturally-related jobs; temporary drinking water replacement for economically disadvantaged communities; statewide water conservation measures; new irrigation measured for famers; and water diversion projects for habitat preservation for wildlife.

The California Department of Social Services announced that food banks in 24 drought-affected counties will begin receiving the first in $5.1 million in food assistance, with food hitting the food bank shelves soon this month.

Shipments will be sent to counties where the unemployment rate is higher than the 2013 statewide average and have a higher share of agricultural workers than the rest of the state. These counties will include: Amador, Butte, Colusa, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Yolo, and Yuba.

Beginning this month, the local food banks in these 24 counties will receive pre-packaged boxes of nutritional, non-perishable food items, providing enough food for a household of four people for about five days. The food items will include canned fruits and vegetables, soup, peanut butter, rice, and beans.

People that receive the food boxes will be asked to provide proof that they live in a household where drought conditions have caused their unemployment or underemployment.

In addition, these food banks are developing local “drought actions plans” for food distributions and collaborating with other local organizations serving impacted families.

Also, families and individuals who are expecting to feel the long-term impacts of the drought will also be able to apply for the CalFresh Program, which is a California program that issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy most foods at markets and food stores.

Another measure recently taken by the state’s water board was the approval of about $4 million in funds for brining in new clean drinking water to economically disadvantaged communities that have contaminated water supplies.

The governor’s office said, “in an effort to distribute funds as quickly and efficiently as possible,” the state water board will coordinate with regional water quality control boards, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) district offices, the Office of Emergency Services (OES), and other groups, such as community assistance groups, “to identify disadvantaged communities that are most at-risk and would benefit from financial assistance.”

Applicant will have until June 30, 2015 to apply for the funding. Those eligible to apply for the funding will include: public agencies, tribal governments, non-profit water quality organizations, and other non-profits.

To get the word out, the state water board said that it will develop an online presence to make it easy to apply, as well as develop an outreach strategy, and work with other state and federal partners that provide similar funding for temporary drinking water supplies.

California Governor Edmund Brown has also launched a campaign, which includes an online platform at SaveOurH2O.org, to encourage the public to reduce their water use by about 20 percent.

Among the tips on the Save Our Water platform, are:

  • Use the washing machine only with full loads to save water and energy
  • Wash dark clothes in cold water to save water and energy. It also helps your clothes retain their color.
  • Run the dishwasher only when full to save water and energy.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food.   Defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap.
  • If you accidentally drop ice cubes, don’t throw them in the sink. Drop them in a house plant instead.
  • Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables. Use it to water house plants.
  • Turn water off when brushing teeth or shaving.
  • Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it and start saving gallons.
  • Turn off the water while washing your hair and save up to 150 gallons a month.
  • When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.

For the public sector, the Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts for state facilities including a plan to place a moratorium on new, non-essential landscaping projects at state facilities, and on state highways and roads. In addition, the California State Architect has asked school districts and community colleges to reduce water usage as well.

Also, the Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California’s roadways by 50 percent, and Caltrans has launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.

To aid farmers, measures will include the state water board expediting the approval of voluntary water transfers.

And to help wildlife, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said that it will work with other state and federal agencies and landowners in priority watersheds to protect threatened and endangered species with measures including voluntary agreements to secure instream flows and relocate members of species.

In addition, the state water board said that it will be considering modifying requirements for reservoir releases and diversions limitations, saying that these changes could “enable water to be conserved upstream later in the year to protect cold water pools for salmon and steelhead, maintain water supply, and improve water quality.”

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