On Saturday, March 1, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation to assist drought-affected communities and provide funding to better use local water supplies.

“Legislators across the aisle have now voted to help hard-pressed communities that face water shortages,” said Brown in the press release. “This legislation marks a crucial step — but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water.”

The legislation had broad, bipartisan support. SB 103 passed 34-2 in the Senate and 64-3 in the Assembly. SB 104 passed 33-3 in the Senate and 68-1 in the Assembly.

The bills provide $687.4 million to support drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers the drought directly impacts, bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water, and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities.

Also, the legislation increases funding for state and local conservation corps to assist communities with efficiency upgrades and to reduce fire fuels in fire risk areas. It includes $1 million for the Save Our Water public awareness campaign, which will enhance its mission to inform Californians how they can do their part to conserve water.

“Neither the rain storms we’re having now, nor this legislation will eliminate the drought and its impacts. But just like any amount of rain and snow will help, saving a year or even a few months in getting money out the door and getting water projects on-line can benefit California enormously,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Also, the bill calls for the California Department of Public Health to adopt new groundwater replenishment regulations by July 1, 2014, and for the state Water Resources Control Board and the DPH to work on more measures to allow for the use of recycled water and storm water capture for increasing water supply availability.

The bill also makes statutory changes to ensure existing water rights laws are followed, including streamlined authority to enforce water rights laws and increased penalties for illegally diverting water during drought conditions. The bill also provides the California Department of Housing and Community Development with the greatest flexibility to maximize migrant housing units.