Congressman Jared Huffman

Representing the 2nd District of California

Your input on California's Water Future

Jul 27, 2015

Dear Friend,

We’re in the midst of the worst drought in our state’s long history and California is hurting. Unfortunately, Congress is doing nothing to help.

Last week, House Republicans brought a divisive and flawed water bill to the House floor that would do nothing to alleviate the effects of the drought. Instead, it’s yet another bill that harms West Coast fisheries and tribal interests, undermines state law, and micromanages the most complex water system in the world in a way that benefits a select few at the expense of many others across our state.

I led the effort to oppose this bill on the House floor. Here’s a brief clip from the debate:

My Democratic colleagues and I offered more than 20 amendments in an effort to improve the bill — and ensure that it doesn’t hurt our region or the environment. However, nearly all were quickly rejected by the Republican Majority without even a vote.

The California legislature has worked together, in full public view, on a multibillion-dollar water bond and on significant water reforms. I wish my colleagues on the other side of the aisle here in D.C. would just give up on the idea of ramming the same divisive ideas through Congress every few months, so we too, might be able to solve water problems together.

Real progress

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 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, my bill now includes significant technical changes and improvements throughout. It also features an entirely new section that will help homeowners reduce their water use – and water bills – by providing a $2,000 tax credit for the purchase and installation of water-capture and harvesting systems.

This is the kind of serious, comprehensive legislation this crisis demands, and I am proud of the bill we worked on together. It 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.

The legislation also supports existing water infrastructure programs so we can quickly upgrade treatment facilities, repair leaking pipes, and improve urban and agricultural water use efficiency in order for us to 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, clean up those that have been contaminated by pollutants, and help us better manage headwater forests and watersheds.

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.”

Next steps:

We’re hearing that our senior Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is crafting a bill to respond to the California drought — I hope to work with her to ensure her bill reflects the kind of public input I received, respects environmental law, and doesn’t seek to micromanage the drought from Washington.

Thanks for all of your ideas and suggestions. You helped me remind Congress that — as the San Francisco Chronicle recently wrote — what California needs is “a realistic view on water.”

Congressman Jared Huffman