Lawmakers representing drought-stricken districts joined with hundreds of their constituents at the state Capitol on Thursday to press for a new water bond measure and the declaration of a drought emergency.
"I see farmers, I see farmworkers; I see people from urban communities and from rural communities, all here today to send one message: that we need water," said Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno.
A procession of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, most representing the Central Valley, took the podium to issue similar pleas. Many called for money to ensure clean drinking water and for more storage capacity, saying it would offset dry years by allowing the state to capture more during years of plentiful rain.
"Additional storage is the key," said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte. "This year's drought simply underscores how critical the situation has become."
A sea of blue signs reading "sin agua=no ay futuro" (no water, no future) or some variation backdropped the speakers, highlighting the California Latino Water Coalition's role in organizing the rally.
"2014 is going to be one of California's worst water supply years in recent history," said Mario Santoyo, director of the coalition. He called the shortfall an issue not just for reduced food production, "but more importantly for those that are here, the issue is that when there is no water, there's no jobs."
The rally came as a lack of snow and rain continues to parch most of California, with nearly 90 percent of the state experiencing severe drought conditions. Sacramento's city council recently voted to require users to cut back water use by 20 percent to 30 percent.
Lawmakers moved an $11.1 billion bond measure to the statewide ballot back in 2009 but have since delayed the vote twice. Some argue the bond is too costly and bloated to win voter approval. A pair of alternative proposals, one in the Senate and one in the Assembly, reflect that skepticism.
Both Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, are seeking to get a smaller bond on the 2014 ballot. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, voiced his support on Wednesday.
Gov. Jerry Brown has not shared legislators' sense of urgency. He has yet to declare a drought emergency and, when asked last week, declined to say whether he supports a water bond going to the 2014 ballot.
Any substantial revision of the bond measure passed in 2009 would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and Brown's approval.
PHOTO: Assemblyman Henry Perea of Fresno addresses a water rally at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on January 16, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Jeremy B. White.