Congressman Jared Huffman

Representing the 2nd District of California

Responding to the California Drought

California is hurting.

In response to the worst drought in our state’s long memory, our public institutions—with one unfortunate exception—are stepping up.

Governor Brown and the legislature passed long-overdue groundwater and sustainable water investments through last year’s $7.5 billion water bond. Local governments and water districts are launching conservation plans to preserve dwindling water supplies. The Obama administration is providing millions in emergency grants to drought-stricken communities and farmers.

But some in Congress have treated the drought as a political opportunity instead of a moral imperative. They’ve dusted off the same political agenda they’ve pursued for years: weakening environmental laws, gutting fishery protections, and redirecting water needed by other regions—and tried to sell it as a drought response.

With something as complicated and important as California water, we really should make sure everyone has a say. Last month I asked you to share your ideas for a congressional response to the California drought. After six weeks of unprecedented public input, I was proud to introduce the Drought Relief and Resilience Act (H.R. 2983) based on ideas and feedback from nearly 1,000 Californians. People weighed in from San Diego to Crescent City, Fresno to San Francisco, as well as farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, urban and rural Californians, and water managers throughout the country.

As a result of this significant public outreach, the Drought Relief and Resilience Act now includes significant technical changes and improvements throughout. The bill also features an entirely new section that will help homeowners weather the drought and reduce their water bills by providing a $2,000 tax credit for the purchase and installation of water-capture and harvesting systems.

We need to work together to get through this drought. That’s why I developed the kind of serious, comprehensive legislation this crisis demands. 

My bill provides emergency funding to stretch existing water supplies: deploying efficient irrigation technology, drilling wells, and building pipelines. It also helps out-of-work farmworkers and combats upstream water theft on federal lands.

Scientists warn that future droughts will be more frequent and more severe due to climate change, and we need to prepare. My bill fully funds existing programs so we can quickly upgrade treatment facilities, repair leaking pipes, and improve urban and agricultural water use efficiency so we can become more drought resilient. It makes major federal investments to improve desalination technology and dramatically expand water recycling. It will help us recharge depleted groundwater aquifers and clean up those that have been contaminated by pollutants, and help us better manage headwater forests and watersheds.

We can’t just keep lurching from one crisis to the next, and my bill helps us plan for the worst. We call in the National Guard when floods overwhelm a state, but when communities run dry we have no plans to deploy military resources—including mobile desalination technology. Disaster response agencies should start planning for the worst right now. Fisheries managers should prepare, too, for years of warmer, depleted streams.

Read more about my bill HERE

My bill reflects four basic principles that should guide Congress in responding to this and future droughts:

  1. Do no harm—ours is a complex system, and we should not redirect impacts or micromanage it from Washington.
  2. No water wars—end attempts to gut environmental laws and take water from other regions. Solutions must respect environmental and water quality laws, and benefit every region impacted by this drought.
  3. Think long-term—we should respond not just to the immediate crisis but build drought resiliency for the future.
  4. Process matters—successful water initiatives require transparency, inclusiveness, and deliberation. Back room deals and secret water grabs invariably create more problems than they solve.

I’ve been reaching out to stakeholders, economists, farmers, conservationists, and California’s top water managers to make my bill the best it can be. Before I formally introduce it, I’d like you to join them in giving your feedback.

Our water future deserves an open debate leading to real solutions.

Here’s what major California newspaper editorials are saying about my bill:

San Francisco Chronicle“Rep. Jared Huffman’s ‘crowdsourced’ water bill is a radical departure from the water wars, backroom deals and water grabs of the past and reframes thinking about water… Finally, a realistic approach to our scarce and most precious resource.”

Los Angeles Times“The Huffman bill is starkly different and frankly much smarter, focusing on updating federal water policies and practices that today are firmly rooted in outdated, mid-20th century knowledge and technology.”

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “There is a better alternative: Rep. Jared Huffman’s crowd-sourced drought bill. All interested parties are invited to participate, and Huffman’s bill already includes one provision of the GOP bill: expedited review of new water storage facilities. “

Marin Independent Journal“Huffman, who is using crowd-sourcing to reach out to constituents for ideas, is the co-author of a 140-page draft bill aimed at focusing on solutions, rather than longstanding political battles. Republicans should pay attention. California needs help to not only address its drought, but to deal with long-term issues, such as environmental protection and water conservation and quality.”

Section by section factsheet:

Huffman Drought Bill Section by Section Summary

Read my full bill below.

Huffman Drought Bill