MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded the state’s drought emergency to 39 additional counties on Monday, including all Central Valley counties.
“How do we secure the needs of small water systems at the same time meet the needs of million-plus Californians that not only don’t have access to safe clean drinking water but also can’t pay their water bills,” Newsom said during his visit to the San Luis Reservoir.
Newsom also announced a $5.1 billion proposal for water infrastructure and drought response during his visit to Merced County. It includes $1 billion to help Californians pay their overdue bills.
Three weeks ago, Newsom issued a drought emergency proclamation impacting Sonoma and Mendocino counties. For weeks, Central Valley lawmakers have been calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide drought emergency.
Newsom’s announcement Monday expands the drought emergency to include 41 counties in total.
“We’re not announcing a statewide drought emergency. We still don’t think that’s necessary,” Newsom said. “We’ll look at regional, we’ll look at local conditions and we will flex up.”
He said there have also been significant changes in conditions in the last couple of weeks.
“In the last few weeks we’ve lost roughly 500,000-acre-feet of runoff compared to what we had anticipated,” revealed Newsom. “Equivalent of one million households receiving water for one year.”
Fresno-area Congressman Jim Costa and State Senator Anna Caballero were also present alongside Newsom.
“We fundamentally need to make the changes to our system that are going to build resiliency, that are going to create an opportunity for our residents to have clean drinking water, for our agricultural community to have the water that they need to be able to feed the world,” Caballero said.
The $5.1 billion proposal is part of what Newsom is calling his $100 Billion California Comeback Plan.
Before the visit to Merced County, Newsom was in Alameda County where he proposed a second round of $600 stimulus checks for Californians making $75,000 or less. Newsom said this would benefit two out of three Californians, including undocumented families.
“78% of all tax filers will be getting a stimulus check back, and that includes ITIN holders, so regardless of your immigration status,” he said.
Newsom’s $100 billion plan still needs approval from the state legislature.