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Saying Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal "includes little to address the effects of the current drought," a new report by the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst suggests anti-drought and conservation steps that lawmakers could take.

Friday's review of the resources portion of Brown's January spending plan came two days after Brown and legislative unveiled a $687.4 million package of drought relief measures, some of which seem to mirror parts of what the LAO suggests.

The legislation, which emerged Monday, is expected to be considered later this week.

In its report, the LAO wades into the contentious issue of water conservation.

The governor's January budget included $621 million to carry out the first phase of its recently released "water action plan." The plan lists water conservation as one of its 10 objectives, but the governor's proposed budget "includes few specific proposals to achieve that goal," the LAO said.

For example, the LAO said, the state could change how water is priced. The Legislature could require water agencies to charge more in drought years. Lawmakers also could make agencies charge lower per-gallon rates for essential water use, but higher rates for water uses deemed less important, such as landscaping.

In addition, lawmakers could change the system of water rights. The objective would be to reflect the potential to save water in "the definition of reasonable use."

And the Legislature could encourage farms to save more water by setting goals for the agricultural industry or helping them pay for water-efficiency equipment. Last week's legislation proposes to give $10 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture to invest in water-efficient irrigation and pumping systems.

PHOTO: Skip Sagouspe walks by bulldozed almond trees in an orchard at Sagoupse Enterprises in western Fresno County on Jan. 16, 2014. The third generation farmer said he had to pull out 160 older almond trees, or about 10 percent of the family's crop, to try and reduce his demand for irrigation during this time of drastic water shortage. The Fresno Bee/Craig Kohlruss


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